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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019
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'Just probably thought I was never going to get there' - Galway veteran enjoys All-Ireland glory

Kieran Fitzgerald is savouring these golden days with Corofin.

Corofin's Kieran Fitzgerald celebrates with manager Kevin O'Brien.
Corofin's Kieran Fitzgerald celebrates with manager Kevin O'Brien.
Image: Gary Carr/INPHO

TWO DECADES AGO Kieran Fitzgerald watched on as a teenager in Croke Park as Corofin created a slice of history.

The North Galway outfit became the trailblazers for Connacht in 1998, the first club that hailed from the province to clinch All-Ireland senior football glory.

In the wake of that St Patrick’s Day triumph, a 17-year-old Fitzgerald slipped into the Corofin adult ranks for the first time for that year’s Galway senior championship.

He strove to emulate that groundbreaking team from his club but despite lifting Sam Maguire and clutching an All-Star award in 2001, reigning on several occasions in his county arena and shining on the Connacht football stage, the All-Ireland club honour looked like it might elude Fitzgerald.

And yet his persistence was rewarded in March 2015 when Corofin took down Slaughtneil.

Kieran Fitzgerald and Martin Farragher celebrate at the end of the game Kieran Fitzgerald celebrates Corofin's 2015 All-Ireland club final victory. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

On Saturday, Fitzgerald was rewarded for not taking the simple option of shuffling into retirement after that win three years ago when he climbed the steps of the Hogan Stand with another Corofin team.

37 years of age and basking in the glow of two All-Ireland club wins.

“It’s unbelievable. (At) 34 in 2015 to win an All-Ireland club after we’d been so close a few times. Just probably thought I was never going to get there. (It’s) probably the ultimate final (win), to beat Nemo in an All-Ireland club final is super.

“It was beyond my wildest dreams that we could do that. We were always hoping, we felt throughout the year we hadn’t put in a 60 minute performance and to do that on the biggest stage of all was awful pleasing for us. We were hoping all year that’s something we were looking to do and to do it on All-Ireland final day was great.”

Fitzgerald pinpointed the emergence of youth and an increase in the depth of their attack as crucial factors in propelling them over the line in recent years.

“The lads played super football as a forward unit. Years ago we’d a very strong back, five or six starting Galway backs, but we were lacking a bit up front. Ian Burke and Mike Farragher and Martin Farragher and those guys and Jayo, Jason Leonard, they added to it.

“It just shows the young players we’ve added to the squad. We were bitterly disappointed the way we lost to Crokes last year. We just didn’t turn up and they beat us fair and square. We just felt it wasn’t a true reflection of where we were at.

“It was a long road to come back and start again. First few league games after the Dr Crokes game was hard to get going but we gathered around again and got going.”

The win is the third that the Corofin club have achieved and elevates the current setup over their predecessors in 1998.

“Ah yeah that was a drive, there was a bit of that too,” laughs Fitzgerald.

“Look it we’re delighted. There’s a bit of slagging about that. Just to put in a 60 minute performance on All-Ireland final day is something we’re very, very pleased with.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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