Fitzgerald set the standard to help Corofin reap rich rewards

Kieran Fitzgerald hangs up boots after a fourth All Ireland club medal

Corofin's standard-bearer and stalwart Kieran Fitzgerald, celebrating a fourth All-Ireland Senior Club Championship victory, announced his retirement from playing after more than 30 years.

Corofin's standard-bearer and stalwart Kieran Fitzgerald, celebrating a fourth All-Ireland Senior Club Championship victory, announced his retirement from playing after more than 30 years.

Long-serving Corofin footballer Kieran Fitzgerald may have called time on his playing career, but there are hopes the 39-year-old will continue his involvement with his home club.

The game and Corofin are part of Fitzgerald's DNA, and Corofin manager Kevin O'Brien believes he will continue to have a role in the future.

"Fitzy is very much a part of the Corofin set up, this year and next year. His key strength has always been to appreciate his club. He knows his roots, he knows the club, and while we will miss his presence in the dressing room, hopefully he will be involved in some capacity.

"It is something we are looking at, but we haven't identified or talked about a role yet."

However O'Brien says given the 30 years plus Fitzgerald has given to the GAA, it is time for him and wife Emer to take some time for themselves.

The two men had discussed his possible retirement a few weeks ago, and with the current season on hold, there was no surprise with his recent announcement.

"I am just delighted he was able to make the decision and that he was not forced into it through injury. It is great he can go out when his chooses - at the top of his playing career with an All Ireland from Corofin."

That Fitzgerald put off a possible retirement last year having suffered a hamstring was all the more admirable. He recovered to line out in the county final, which was a landmark for him.

"To go on and perform like he did in the following games and in the All Ireland is a reflection of his fitness levels, the work he has done over the years to be able to do that. That in itself, not only to win, but to play 70 minutes in Croke Park, is a fantastic achievement."

It started in 1998 with the first of 14 Galway SFC medals, and concluded this season with the fourth All Ireland. In between he played inter-county for 11 years, winning an All Ireland medal in 2001 and becoming an All Star.

O'Brien says Fitzgerald, who is a garda, led Corofin with his professional attitude, and was ahead of his time.

"The game has got professional in the last five or so years, and Fitzy took to it so easily because he had always been doing it. He was ahead of his time the way he approached his diet, and he was hungry for the next thing that was new - always open to change and adapting his game and routine.

"He lived his life around football seven days a week, and when he trained, he did so like it was a county final. He did everything 100 per cent."

And that attitude paid dividends on the field for the club.

"His best form of defence in the way he approached games was to attack as much as possible. I think the way the game has changed, particularly in the last three or four years, really suited him because he was so fit and so enthusiastic to get on the ball and to help every player out. In the last three All Ireland finals, he was in the forwards as much as he was in the backs."

Setting the standard

Fitzgerald did not need a captain's armband to lead. Quietly spoken in the dressing room, Fitzgerald did most of his talking in the lead-up to games, having done all the homework on the opposition teams.

"He set the standard for everyone to follow and he always made time for people, particularly younger people. He was always willing to show up. He led that way by his commitment.

"He went out and performed all the time, and at the age of 39 to perform so consistently at the top level is a credit to him and a reflection of the work he put in. I think his attention to detail in every aspect of the game is where he really showed the leadership."

Former Corofin and Galway captain Ray Silke says Fitzgerald was a "fantastic young fella" when he came onto the football scene in 1998.

"He was always humble, which is key trait, and he was always a good listener - always had integrity.

"To become such a good footballer is not just about ability, it's about attitude, and his attitude was fantastic because you don't play football at the top level for 20 years without it."

Silke says Fitzgerald shone on the playing field for his discipline, and work rate.

"He had the discipline to mind his body, his strength and conditioning, his diet, his alcohol consumption. In addition to that, he was a really nice guy.

"Alongside players such as Gary Sice, Ciaran McGrath and Michael Lundy, he was always one of the leaders for Corofin."

Last word

Last word to the man himself: "The GAA is my identity and it;s embedded in my DNA. I look forward to repaing the faith Corofin GAA Club invested in me over the years, and in whatever way I can assist the next generation in making their dreams become a reality too, I will." Kieran Fitzgerald


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