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22 years on from senior club debut and still central to All-Ireland title wins

Kieran Fitzgerald toasted another victory with Corofin in Croke Park on Sunday.

Kieran Fitzgerald celebrates Corofin's All-Ireland final victory.
Kieran Fitzgerald celebrates Corofin's All-Ireland final victory.
Image: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

Updated Jan 21st 2020, 9:13 AM

THE ACTION WENT on in Croke Park for well over 90 minutes on Sunday evening before time was called, Corofin were declared winners and the All-Ireland club football system had delivered a champion.

It was a marathon, lung-bursting affair as the final act unfolded and yet for as long as it took and for as many players Corofin had to spring from the bench – eight reserves in total pressed into combat – their longest-serving member stayed out on the pitch until the very end. 

Kieran Fitzgerald turned 39 in January. He won his first senior medal in Galway as a teenager back in his debut season in 1998. He lifted Sam Maguire and was honoured as an All-Star in 2001. A decade later he moved to retire from the inter-county scene.

And yet he continues to endure at the peak of the club game. 

Aside from that stray handpass that almost yielded an own goal but for the diving intervention of Bernard Power, Fitzgerald hardly put a foot wrong.

He was at the core of Corofin’s defensive unit that kept Kilcoo scoreless in extra-time and sealed their latest All-Ireland success.

Kieran Fitzgerald Corofin record

  • 14 Galway SFC – 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.
  • 7 Connacht SFC – 2008, 2009, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.
  • 4 All-Ireland – 2015, 2018, 2019, 2020.

No one marvels more than Fitzgerald at how profitable recent seasons have been and how he has been rewarded for staying on.

“I said it before, I was 34 against Slaughtneil (winning his first All-Ireland). If somebody told me I was going to finish up with four All-Ireland club titles, it’s crazy stuff.

“I finished playing with Galway when I was 30. My most enjoyable years playing football, no disrespect to Galway, has been with Corofin. Loved it. Always loved it to be honest with you but like this particular group are unbelievable. As I’ve said loads of times before, I’m not a vital cog on this team at all. Those boys are super and look I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

kieran-fitzgerald-and-aidan-branagan Kieran Fitzgerald flicks the ball away from Kilcoo's Aidan Branagan.

Fitzgerald laughs as David Morris, who is at the heart of Corofin’s coaching and analysis work, walks by under the Hogan Stand and suggests the veteran defender has another four more years left.

So will he return for the All-Ireland four-in-a-row bid?

“Who knows? I’ll talk to the wife and see if she’ll let me!”

Fitzgerald is keen to point out he plays a minor role in a major system. He paints a picture of a Corofin squad bursting at the seams with talent and driven by a ferocious will to succeed.

“You have Conor Cunningham, Dylan McHugh, Ross Mahon, Conor Newell, Ciaran McGrath, all these boys are really pushing in training. It would have been difficult calls for Kevin O’Brien to make during the week to tell those players they weren’t starting.

“Ross Mahon is the Galway U20 captain. He’s sitting on the bench like. Darragh Silke is flying with UCD and he’s sitting on the bench. Dylan Canney came on, kicked a point, pushing really hard. All of them would have played with Galway. That shows our panel, they were super and I think that was maybe the difference.”

corofin-players-celebrate-after-the-game-with-the-cup Corofin players celebrate their victory. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

It was an All-Ireland final that descended into chaos near the end of normal time and required Corofin to clear their minds in a match that unfolded in an odd fashion.

“We were very wary of the contest we were facing. I’d watched them an awful lot, not just this year but numerous years. They’re a tough team. To win in the fashion we did probably makes it a bit sweeter. We had to really dig deep and fight for it.

“It was a crazy game, something we hadn’t experienced before. We didn’t play well. We made loads of mistakes. I don’t remember the last time we scored two points (in a half). It was just a funny game.

“Cathal Silke coming up and kicking a great point. Steedo (Ronan Steede) did very well, kicked a few scores as he does anyway. Cunningham getting the goal. Scores were coming from different quarters, it was just a different performance from Corofin.”

The display may have been different but the result was the same.

Another medal to add to Fitzgerald’s impressive collection.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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