Fitzgerald ready for another AIB All Ireland Club decider
By Cian O’Connell
Kieran Fitzgerald’s mind wanders back to 2015 when reflecting on how far Corofin have travelled.
Fitzgerald was just beginning to perform in the adult grades in 1998 when Corofin collected the Andy Merrigan Cup for the first time at Croke Park.
For much of the next two decades Corofin enjoyed glorious days in the Galway and Connacht arena, but worrying losses were endured on the national stage.
So that is why the triumph over St Vincent’s five years ago carried so much weight. Corofin had waited and wondered, but in Tullamore that February afternoon they summoned a substantial performance.
Three AIB All Ireland Club titles have followed, but the statement victory over Vincent’s proved to be a defining occasion.
“It was, it was really, because before that we had always fallen at those hurdles,” Fitzgerald admits.
“I was just thinking on Saturday night last after our game, you know, Kilcoo beat Ballyboden.
“To beat the Dublin champions that time for us was such a huge thing it was like a huge weight off our shoulders and such elation to be in an All Ireland final. The momentum and energy we got from that was huge.
“I was just thinking on Saturday when Kilcoo beat Ballyboden, and watching the scenes after the game they will be absolutely buzzing for this All-Ireland final, as are we as well.
“That was a huge hurdle for us at the time and they won by three points and the full back went up the field in the last minute and kicked a massive score. That was huge for us and no doubt huge for them the last day.”
An All Ireland winner with Galway in 2001, Fitzgerald continues to enjoy being involved with Corofin.
Still the 39 year is adamant that Corofin have scope for improvement ahead of Sunday’s tussle with Kilcoo at GAA headquarters.
“Our performances probably have been very patchy here and there, you know, I thought our first 20 minutes the last day was pretty decent.
“There were loads of things after that we wouldn't be happy about. I suppose Nemo had a few chances, our shooting probably wasn't up to par as well, so going into the this weekend we have a few things to iron out. Overall, we've had a few scrapes along the way this year and to say that we've had a complete performance, definitely not.”
Fitzgerald believes that former Galway colleague Padraic Joyce has the knowledge and vision to succeed in his new role. “He has an unbelievable knowledge of football, and I thought when he was speaking in the dressing room he used to always make sense,” Fitzgerald recalls.
“It was always with great clarity, and to the point. His footballing ethos is pretty simple: to move the ball, probably the way Corofin do at times.
"To move the ball as quickly as possible through the foot if at all possible.
“That's the way he was all the way through. He was a full forward and he wanted the ball in as quickly as possible.
“I know myself from playing in the full-back line the most dangerous place to have the ball is in the full forward line.”
A recent challenge fixture featuring Corofin and Galway confirmed that policy will be adopted according to Fitzgerald.
“It was clearly obvious when we played them that they were trying to do that, albeit in the early stages of it.
"It’s exciting, hopefully it goes well for him. Hopefully the county and supporters give them time to develop.
“It's not all going to happen all at once and I'm sure there's going to be a few rocky patches along the way. Division One is difficult.”
So too is being such a cool operator in the AIB All Ireland Club Championship. It is, though, a task Fitzgerald continues to accomplish with admirable class and composure.