Saturday 24 August 2019

Obituary: Ned Fitzgerald

Hugh O'Flaherty plays a tribute to his faithful friend - a fine footballer, runner and keen swimmer

Hugh O’Flaherty, Ned O’Sullivan, and right, Mick O’Connell
Hugh O’Flaherty, Ned O’Sullivan, and right, Mick O’Connell

Hugh O’Flaherty

Ned Fitzgerald, a native of Cahersiveen, who has died after an illness, was an outstanding sportsman and not just on the field of play but in his many-faceted interactions with all manner of people.

Ned was an outstanding member of the 1950s South Kerry teams that won several county championships - after a long barren period - as well as playing on the county junior and senior teams.

As a youth, he was a fine runner. I used to joke to him that if he had concentrated on running - and forgot about football - he could have had an international reputation. Ned scoffed at that suggestion and said: "You're the only one that says that."

And not to forget his love of swimming. Cooscrome Bay, near Cahersiveen town, was his favourite place and he loved to swim as long into the autumn and winter as he could.

Ned loved the bizarre or the unusual. When I reported to him that my wife, Kay, had persuaded his son, Eamon, to sing at 8 o'clock morning Mass, he laughed an approval.

And when the same Eamon left the Cahersiveen St Mary's team to play for - and captain - arch rivals Renard to victory, he backed him fully.

And he loved to point out that of the younger generation -when his son Maurice was in the vanguard - daughter Marie was the first to win an All-Ireland medal.

Ned Fitzgerald was a Fidus Achates - a loyal companion - to Mick O'Connell, but then he was a loyal and faithful friend to many more. On occasion he could be scathing in his judgments of people and events. But if he was satisfied that a person, whatever his or her faults, had as he put it "a bit of nature", all was forgiven and the person was restored to a place of honour.

Ned was as astute a businessman as he was an athlete. He took great interest and pride in all the family's achievements in academia as well as their athletic achievements which were many and extensive - football, basketball, rowing, soccer, cycling, swimming to name some.

Ned's own confidence on the field of play is captured by this story. In a Kerry/Cork encounter, a stalwart for Kerry was Bobby Miller from Tralee but that day Bobby had missed a few close-in frees. Ned was pulled down going through the defence and went to take the free. Bobby approached and said: "I'm supposed to be taking the frees." "But you're supposed to be putting them over the bar," responded Ned - who duly slotted the point.

Ned, who died on May 4, faced death with outstanding courage and his total confidence that he had fought the good fight and had finished the race. He had liked to position himself in the Daniel O'Connell church near the station of the cross that features Simon of Cyrene who helped carry the Lord's cross. I think he identified with Simon's role as a true helper.

For some time, he had the special care of daughter Cathie and son-in-law Dr Brian O'Donovan, and the family, including the grandchildren, had the chance to replay the love he had bestowed on them. Ned is now reunited with his beloved wife Mary and son Noel as well as the many friends who went before him.

Sunday Independent

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