Tuesday 28 March 2017

Inside back: Where are they now?

IAN FITZGERALD

(Former Laois footballer)

Portlaoise and Kilmacud Crokes meet today in the Leinster club championship and one man who wouldn't mind playing is Ian Fitzgerald. The former Laois captain retired from football in 2006, aged 29, when he decided to further his dentistry studies in America.

But now he is back working in Ireland and is very tempted to return to football. "I haven't heard from the club since I've been back but I still feel young, I feel fit and I think I'd be able to give it a go," he says.

Fitzgerald definitely has plenty of experience. He made the breakthrough onto the county seniors in 1995 when still only 18. Three years later, Laois won a Leinster under 21 title and Fitzgerald got his first taste of success.

Better was to follow after Mick O'Dwyer arrived in 2003. Fitzgerald captained the senior team to Leinster glory as they beat Kildare in the final in Croke Park -- a day he will never forget.

"That was an amazing time in Laois football because in the seven or eight years previous to Micko's management we had never even got close to a Leinster title. In his first year we got to the league final and we won Leinster.

"For some of the bigger counties, those achievements wouldn't be a big deal but for Laois it was massive.

"We always had a good team, we were similar to a lot of counties, the players were there; we just needed them all to come together. When Micko came in he focused us. We felt that we really needed to prove ourselves to Mick O'Dwyer. We had been hammered the year before by Meath so it was a do-or-die thing that year."

Although he retired at a young age, he had 11 seasons under his belt. The commitment was taking its toll and eventually the wing-forward had to make a choice.

"I was a dentist at that time but I wanted to specialise and football is like having a second job. I couldn't do all the study needed and keep playing the football and I got tired of the football so I decided to give it up."

For the last two years Fitzgerald has been in Milwaukee specialising in orthodontics. He returned to Ireland at the start of the summer and is now a partner in Castle Orthodontics in Carlow and Kilkenny. He hasn't returned to the football field yet but he won't rule it out.

Sunday Independent

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