BY KIERAN McCARTHY
EPHIE Fitzgerald admits taking over as Cork ladies’ senior football manager was ‘too good an opportunity to turn down’.
The Nemo Rangers clubman was approached a few weeks back to gauge whether he was interested in succeeding Eamonn Ryan, who stepped down as manager in December to take up a role as selector with Peadar Healy’s new setup.
Fitzgerald then met the management selection committee last Saturday night, and he says it ‘took no persuading’.
He was ratified as the new Cork ladies’ senior football manager late on Monday night last.
‘This was too good an opportunity to turn down,’ the experienced coach told The Southern Star.
‘I haven’t been involved in ladies’ football before, so this is a new and fresh challenge that I am genuinely looking forward to.’
‘There is a lot of young talent there coming through. I am hopeful that in terms of coaching that I can develop the players that bit more and keep the success going.’
Fitzgerald is hopeful that some of Ryan’s backroom staff will stay on with him to ensure a smooth transition and help him settle into his new role, which starts in earnest this week.
Fitzgerald will adopt an if-it’s-not-broken-don’t-fix-it approach, as this Cork team has dominated ladies’ football in the last 11 years, winning ten of the last 11 All-Ireland titles, as well as nine of the last 11 Division 1 league titles.
‘You can’t follow a fella like Eamonn Ryan. What he achieved was unprecedented, but my job starts now and I want to get the best out of the group,’ Fitzgerald said.
‘It will be a big change for the players, some of whom had Eamonn as their manager for their entire inter-county career so it will be different, but sometimes change is good.
‘I will bring a few different ideas to what Eamonn had but I won’t be looking to make massive changes either because what they have been doing has worked. I will go in, talk to the team and talk to the backroom team and ascertain where we can improve.
‘This group is as diligent, committed and focussed as any men’s team out there. It says a lot about them that they want more – that’s a major indication of the drive they possess. They’re hungry for success, so am I, so it’s a good match.
‘There is also a new crop of players coming through so it’s a good time to be involved.’
Fitzgerald added: ‘The foundation of any team is hard work, and if we can keep that going, we’ll learn and grow together. Hopefully, there will be a smooth transition and we can have a successful year.’
While he holds his hands up and admits he has no experience in coaching in ladies’ football, Fitzgerald says he is a quick learner who will do all he can to ensure Cork remain the number one team in the country.
‘I have always perceived ladies football as the purest form. It’s a joy to watch. They are all so driven, so fit and so committed, and it’s my job to give them the best platform to succeed,’ the new manager explained.
‘It’s a blank page as to who will be involved and makeup the panel. I plan to attend as many matches as I can when the leagues start around the county – that will give me more of a flavour as to what the ladies’ football scene is about. I am re-educating myself as well.’