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Ben Brady/INPHO Patrick Fitzgerald has excelled for his club of late.
# Young blood
Waterford and Ballygunner’s new star Fitzgerald hailed as 'Dessie Hutchinson 2.0’
The teenager scored 1-4 in Munster final win over Ballyea.

JUST WHEN TEAMS around the country were getting used to the problems presented by Dessie Hutchinson, his twin has arrived, with former Cork All-Star keeper, Anthony Nash, comparing Ballygunner’s breakthrough star, Patrick Fitzgerald, to Hutchinson.

Fitzgerald announced his arrival on the national stage in this year’s Munster club championship, scoring 1-4 against Kilruane MacDonaghs in the quarter-final, 1-1 against Na Piarsaigh in the semis and then 1-4 in Saturday’s Munster final win over Clare champions, Ballyea.

Speaking on The42′s GAA weekly, Nash praised the 18-year-old’s mentality as well as the selflessness of the Ballygunner team who have allowed him flourish on the big stage.

“Ballygunner’s system fits around the team being first and while there are individual superstars, they all play within a framework,” said Nash. “They all know what they have to do.

“Don’t get me wrong, they have big stars. Pauric Mahony was outstanding in Saturday’s win over Ballyea, he pulls the strings there. But they have 15 stars on their team and are better than they were last year. They are more confident on the back of winning the (2021/22) All-Ireland; winning has added another element to their game, that additional self-belief.

“They are favourites against Ballyhale – it is not too often you say that about any side going in to face that Ballyhale team (winners of two All-Irelands, four Leinster championships and five county titles since 2018).”

Ballygunner, however, defeated them in a thrilling All-Ireland decider earlier this year and now appear a stronger outfit ahead of their reunion in this month’s sequel.

“They now have two Dessie Hutchinsons,” says Nash. “Fitzgerald is the exact same as him, hard-working, extremely skilful.

“I’ve said it before about Dessie Hutchinson – the most impressive thing about him is his willingness to go. He is constantly on the move, a bundle of energy. I’d say he is nightmare to mark because he is so exceptionally fit.

“Fitzgerald is like another version of Dessie. I can’t believe he is 18 because he is so dynamic, so physical for a young fella and when you think of his goal, it was a very intelligent finish for a young fella to make, to go down low, is where the keepers don’t like. He had a few wides but he is constantly going – he looks like Dessie Hutchinson, 2.0. He is a cracking player.

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“For an 18-year-old he is very physical, quite strong, built low to the ground, and able to take a hit and get on with it; he is confident in a good way. He seems to be above his years in experience. He is filled-out boy for his age. I’d say the manager is saying ‘there is no pressure on you’. I like his style; he is a good finisher, a star in the making.”

Ballyhale’s style also impresses Nash. “It is not doom and gloom for Ballyhale because they are Leinster champions again and you can’t overlook what Ballyhale have: TJ Reid, Colin Fennelly, Adrian Mullan and Eoin Cody. For me Ballygunnar are favourites but I just hope it is the game of the year because it has the potential to be.”

Nash also discussed the upcoming St Thomas versus Dunloy semi-final, warning the Galway champions about the pitfall of complacency against the newly-crowned Ulster champions.

“Antrim have always had great hurlers and great teams and you just know if they weren’t geographically isolated (from hurling’s heartland) they would find life so much easier, in terms of arranging challenge fixtures, in terms of having the benefits that we take for granted (in Munster).”

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