Michael Fitzsimons enjoying life in the corner
By John Harrington
Michael Fitzsimons produced what could be best described as a typical Michael Fitzsimons performance for Dublin in last Saturday’s All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Final win over Monaghan.
The corner-back was tight and tenacious as he held direct opponent Jack McCarron scoreless.
It was yet another classic corner-back performance in a season of them from the Cuala man.
He has been a fixture in the Dublin team since forcing his way back into it for last year’s All-Ireland Final replay against Mayo when he won the Man of the Match award.
He has now played in all of Dublin's League and Championship matches this year and been a beacon of consistency in them.
At the relatively ripe age of 28, it looks like Fitzsimons is still improving which is down to his determination to constantly fine-tune and upgrade his game.
It also helps that he relishes the unique challenges of playing in the corner-back position.
“The way the game has changed in corner-back you'd be adjusting how you mark people because teams mightn't kick it in as much, they might be hand-passing it,” he says.
“You look back on the league and fine-tune little bits and pieces, and try stay focused on the game for the full 80 minutes the game is now. That's another challenge in corner-back, anything can drag your mind away to something else.
“You might have one or two bad plays and that could be the difference between winning a game because at corner-back you can get punished and the difference of you staying in the team as well.
“I enjoy it, it's a good challenge. Some people get put in there but they want to go back out the field. It's a battle of minds, you're trying to limit your man. If you're fortunate enough you get to mark top forwards as well.”
As an underage player very few people even in Fitzsimons’ club would have tipped him to make it to the level he has.
He only played for the club’s ‘B’ team in his first year in the minor grade, so he accepts he’s come a long way to establish himself as a fixture in a Dublin side going for a third All-Ireland in a row.
“You probably reflect on it when you get Con O’Callaghan’s Dad, Maurice, introducing you to some underage team and telling your story and basically slating you, saying, 'I never thought this lad would be any good!'” laughs Fitzsimons.
“At times, you do get a chance (to reflect). I know I've been very fortunate. You see at training, there's such small, fine margins.
If you do one or two good sessions that could be the difference between you staying on the panel or, like, I had one or two games playing corner-back for my club and they stick me in that position and I stayed in that position.
“I enjoy it, if someone shows a bit of trust in you it makes a massive difference. Like, Mick Deegan, I played in that Dublin Junior team in 2008, full-back, and I was very, very light.
“People were thinking this lad is just going to get brushed over. Mick Deegan probably had people saying, 'what are you doing?' But he trusted me that I was going to be able to deal with the physical side of things at full-back and that obviously made a massive difference.
“It gave me a taste that I could play at a higher level than just club football and then at UCD Dave Billings showed a lot of belief in me as well.
“When you reflect then you know it can be any sort of fine margin and you mightn't have gone this way and on this journey which has obviously been massively enjoyable.
“You wouldn't have had any of these challenges which have been great. So yeah, when you reflect you realise that it might have been a few simple twists of fate that got you there.”