Fitzsimons: You have to prove yourself, you get a bit of self-doubt
Published 25/03/2016 | 02:30
Back in 2013, Mick Fitzsimons was going all out in the Dublin training games, doing the things he thought Jim Gavin wanted him to do.
That meant marauding forward and taking chances. It wasn't his natural game and, unsurprisingly, it didn't work out.
He can remember turning around and watching some forward or other flourishing in the space that he'd left behind and realising he'd only set himself back in his bid to force his way into Gavin's plans.
He made the decision to try to push forward - part in frustration and part in a desire to prove himself to the new manager.
Back then, Gavin was the new manager and Fitzsimons felt like he was playing catch-up.
After all, he had been Pat Gilroy's project. In the wake of the demolition job against Kerry in 2009, Gilroy scoured the county.
On top of his shopping list was a specialist corner-back and out in Cuala he found Fitzsimons.
At that stage he had won a junior All-Ireland with the Dubs but his football wasn't expected to go far beyond that.
But Gilroy liked what he saw and a couple of years later he became the first Cuala clubman to start an All-Ireland SFC final for Dublin since the legendary Mick Holden in 1983 as they edged out Kerry.
Fast forward to 2013 and Fitzsimons had to establish himself all over again. As a former U-21 manager, Gavin has established relationships with others who play in Fitzsimons' position and the former CBC Monkstown pupil went all guns blazing to get noticed.
"I probably thought I was playing well in training and I wasn't getting in," he recalled. "And instead of being patient I tried to be adventurous and got caught out in a few training games.
"And when your team is going that well you only get a few training games in the summer - you might play an 'A' versus 'B' game and if you mess up in one of them you set yourself back a good bit, especially if you haven't previously played under the new manager and I hadn't played under Jim."
"There was a new management at the time and you have to prove yourself all over again.
"You definitely get a bit of self-doubt and it takes a while to get back into it when you are not that fit or sharp and you are not being picked as well. 2013 didn't go great for me.
"I might have played two league games as a sub and didn't play in the championship. It did take a while to get confidence back."
Fitzsimons is almost 28 and Gavin regularly turns to the Cuala man for his ability to shut down opposition forwards.
He's back at university studying medicine, having previously qualified as a physiotherapist and he's combining that with his inter-county career.
"(Other lads had played for Jim) and naturally enough there is going to be a trust there and I hadn't built up that rapport and it would have taken a while. I wasn't too down by it and in 2014 I got a chance."
Word around the capital last September suggested he was close to forcing his way into the Dublin side for the All-Ireland final and this summer he can expect a starting position in a revamped backline that will be without Jack McCaffrey and Rory O'Carroll.
"I would have still fancied my chance to try to break into it," he reasons.
"There are a few vacancies, but with that other young lads are stepping in too so the competition is still quite strong."
The battle for places has been strong enough to ensure that Dublin haven't dropped a point in this year's league. Donegal arrive to Croke Park tomorrow night in what could be a dress rehearsal for a big championship clash later in the year.
And, of course, it isn't lost on Fitzsimons that Donegal are the last team to beat the Dubs in a game of any significance when they toppled them in the All-Ireland semi-final of 2014.
"Any team you lose to you want to make amends. That was a big loss.
"Any team in Division 1 you want to beat and any team you may meet later in championship you want to beat and you don't want to go in on a loss," he said.
"There's nothing hugely special. It has always have been great game playing against them and you enjoy it because you know it will be tough and you know you will be up against someone who is good and there's not a lot of change given."