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'It’s all been a bit of a blur really' - A whirlwind start of success to Cork senior hurling career

Darragh Fitzgibbon has got off to a flying start with the Cork senior hurlers as he gets set for Sunday’s Munster final.

Seven senior games in Munster and Darragh Fitzgibbon is still unbeaten in Cork colours.
Seven senior games in Munster and Darragh Fitzgibbon is still unbeaten in Cork colours.
Image: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

TWO MUNSTER SEASONS, still unbeaten after seven provincial games, one medal in his back pocket and the chance to collect a second on Sunday in Thurles.

It’s only just over 13 months since Darragh Fitzgibbon stepped into the Munster senior championship arena for the first time but the midfielder has made quite the impact for Cork.

After three wins on the bounce last summer in Munster, Cork avoided any losses in the novel round-robin series in 2018 and are back aiming to repeat last July’s feat in taking down Clare next Sunday.

After being pushed into the spotlight during an excellent opening campaign, he has sought to savour this season more.

“It’s all been a bit of a blur, really,” says Fitzgibbon.

“It all happened so fast I suppose. It was unexpected to get the call-up after minor. They showed their faith in us, they’ve instilled a lot of belief and confidence in us in the senior set-up.”

“Last year it all just went so fast. Being the first year you’re a bit nervous and you just want to go out, get on the ball and not make a mistake really. This year I’m just enjoying it a bit more, there’s a bit more freedom.

“I think the players are just encouraging us a bit more, to just get more involved, just have a bit more of a say I suppose.”

Darragh Fitzgibbon Fitzgibbon hit 0-4 from play against Limerick. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Fitzgibbon’s influence in Cork’s play has become more pronounced in recent weeks as they have negotiated their provincial hurdles.

He posted 0-3 in the opening day win over Clare and bagged 0-4 in the pulsating draw against Limerick. Ben O’Connor, his club manager at home in Charleville, and twin brother Jerry were natural players to admire when he was younger and Fitzgibbon’s dynamic style of midfield is similar to their exploits.

“When you’re living so close to them, it was all about them where I was from, with all the success they were having so. Being involved with the club set-up has been massive.

“They would have been players all of us would have looked up to when we were younger.”

Sunday is the start of an intense schedule for Fitzgibbon with another Munster final looming large next Wednesday night as Cork take on Tipperary in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 hurling championship.

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It was similar last week when he faced Waterford at U21 level just over 72 hours after taking them on in the senior grade.

“It is tough but it’s hugely enjoyable. As a player you want to be playing in as many matches as you can. It’s a new format, less training, more matches so I’m really enjoying it so far.

“On Wednesday I’ve a Munster final but you can’t really think about it because we’ve another one on Sunday, so it is difficult but it’s a good complaint as well.

“We just love playing matches and the performance has been enjoyable and the more matches the better.”

Darragh Fitzgibbon Darragh Fitzgibbon in action in the Munster U21 hurling semi-final against Waterford recently. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Fitzgibbon has his own personal cause fuelling his drive to shine in the U21 showdown. He starred in last July’s semi-final win over Waterford at that level but was shown a red card in injury-time and had to watch on for the subsequent final loss to Limerick.

“I felt disappointed last year, felt I maybe let the lads down. (it was) stupid to get sent-off and miss a Munster final. So to have another opportunity again this year and just delighted to be able to play again.”

He’ll train the focus on Sunday first of all. Cork attempt to land back-to-back Munster senior crowns since they last managed that in 2005-06. Clare are aiming to end a barren 20-year spell. The stakes are high.

“There’s been massive atmospheres at all the games. The Limerick fans are really good to travel, so are the Cork fans, and so are the Clare fans.

“There’s nothing going to be between Clare (and ourselves). They’ve improved a lot since Round 1, and we’re just ready to go really.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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