Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO Munster players form a guard of honour for the late Garrett Fitzgerald.
# Paying Tribute
Scannell says late Munster CEO Fitzgerald put him on the straight and narrow
Niall Scannell on the influence the late Garrett Fitzgerald had on him.

MUNSTER HOOKER NIALL Scannell said that he and many other players would not have gone on to make the grade was it not for the guidance of former CEO Garrett Fitzgerald, who died at the weekend.

Scannell has now chalked up 102 appearances for his native Munster and won 20 Irish caps but said he would have achieved none of them had Fitzgerald not knocked him into line when he was coming through.

“Everyone is aware of the achievements he has had in Munster. I definitely wouldn’t be sitting here anyway. I have had a few frank chats with Garrett over the years. I had a very good relationship with him. He used to always tell me that I wanted it all now, now, now when I was a young fella.

“There were probably a few decisions that I could have made in my career when I wasn’t playing as much and I was a bit impatient and a bit immature. He set me straight and I stayed with Munster and obviously I am really grateful to have got over 100 caps now. I have represented my country which was an unbelievable honour for me.

“If it wasn’t for Garrett I am 100 percent sure I wouldn’t be sitting here anyway. We probably wouldn’t be in this unbelievable facility. And we wouldn’t be playing games in two stadiums like Irish Independent Park and Thomond Park. We have a huge amount to thank Garrett for.

“But primarily yesterday was good for us as a squad to be able to get together and show our squad. Primarily he was a CEO to us and a driving force. But he was a husband and a father as well. For us, to see that side of it yesterday, our thoughts and prayers are with Áine and all of his kids.”

Scannell said that Fitzgerald had made Munster into a global brand in the professional era and that a massive foundation had been laid for when and others came on the scene.

niall-scannell Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Niall Scannell at Munster training today. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“When you hear all the stories of Garrett, naturally I feel pretty privileged because I came in in a generation where they had already won two Heineken Cups. They had won the Rabo as it was at the time.

“Maybe guys in my generation didn’t have as much of an appreciation, I saw ROG had a tweet saying he changed the landscape for Irish rugby players. And he did. That was the landscape I came into, which was brilliant. That is the standard he set.

“You hear the funny anecdotes about when things were turning professional, how he managed that. How honest a guy he was. Niall O’Donovan said yesterday, at the funeral mass, he was honest even if you didn’t want to hear it and that was the brilliant thing about him. He did change that landscape. Reflecting, my generation are a bit spoiled in an environment he created for us to come into.”

Scannell that the challenge for Munster now, similar to when former captain and coach Anthony Foley died in 2016, was to carry on the legacy and that they need to focus their attentions on the next game, which comes up this Friday away to Zebre.
“Unfortunately we have had to this before as well with Axel. Garrett was probably the main driving force in that and helping us manage that and providing all the support to us. That will be provided to lads here if they need it.

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“I know if there is one man that would want us to turn it around and go and have an away win at all costs on Friday it would definitely be Garrett. He would be back to business as usual. He would do anything to support us, to get us that win on Friday.

“That is what he did when we had to do this for Axel. That is the manner in which he wanted to be handled. It was great to be able to pay our respects at the removal and the funeral. We just have to try and be professional about it now. And put those things aside as much as we can do and drive on. We are going to have a tough opposition on Friday night,” added the 27-year old.

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