Saturday 17 August 2019

Corofin's run of titles keeps Fitzgerald keen for more

Kieran Fitzgerald is happy to take every week as it comes. Photo: Sportsfile
Kieran Fitzgerald is happy to take every week as it comes. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Kieran Fitzgerald turns 37 in January but is still going strong.

The holder of an All-Ireland medal from 2001, 12 Galway SFC titles as well as a club All-Ireland, there's nothing left for the Corofin clubman to prove.

But perhaps some of his motivation comes from keeping pace with his wife and Galway ladies football captain Emer Flaherty, herself an decorated footballer and full-back.

"My wife is Galway ladies captain," Fitzgerald explains. "She plays with a junior club, Tuam Cortoon. They won the Connacht junior championship and lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Aghada there last weekend. Aghada were a lot stronger but she has an All-Ireland senior medal and two All-Stars so I can't say much," he smiles.

"She plays full-back too. I'm not even the best full-back in the house! We have a lot in common. It is all football in the house."

Fitzgerald will try and bring another Connacht medal back home on Sunday when Corofin take on three-in-a-row Mayo champions Castlebar Mitchels in the provincial decider in Tuam.

He picked up his 12th county medal this year and has seen plenty of change in football since he came on the scene for Corofin seniors in the months after their breakthrough 1998 All-Ireland club final triumph. John O'Mahony had him in with Galway for the 2000 campaign.

His longevity is remarkable but Fitzgerald revealed that outside of a slightly-tailored training plan, there's no great secret to his ability to keep playing at a high level.

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"I've been relatively lucky with injuries and it is only in the latter stages of my career where I've had a few, but, thankfully, I've been able to get over them pretty quickly.

"As you get older, you don't do as much and you are smarter in terms of your workload and conditioning. You spend less time off your feet, like on the bike or rowing in the gym.

"I wouldn't be putting as much weight through the legs and obviously, the Corofin management are understanding of that. We have a good S&C coach in Michael Comer and he works a lot with me to get my fitness up, but not being on the pitch as much."

"At my age, I take every week as it comes. Injury-wise, thankfully, I'm good. The odd niggle pops up and it does take longer to shake them off but all is good."

Surgeries

There have been a few surgeries required over the years but overall, he's been lucky with injury.

"I hurt my ankle against St Vincent's in the 2015 All-Ireland semi-final, so had surgery after the All-Ireland club final. I had a groin op after that. Most of my surgeries have been recently so that is probably not a great sign. I had a little problem with my hip so I got that sorted in the last few years, 2014-'15.

"I've been lucky. They are all keyhole procedures so you can get back out there pretty quickly again after rehab." 

Corofin are at home in Tuam but the recent history between the sides shows that counts for little.

"We've played Castlebar three times in the last five years and we played them twice in Tuam and once in Castlebar. They won twice in Tuam and we won in Castlebar. Home advantage doesn't seem to matter. I don't think they've any fear of coming down to Tuam to play us. Their defence is similar. They play high up and they are in your face. They have a high work rate in the tackle. If we don't match that aggression, they'll turn us over.

"The likes of Paddy Durcan, Eoin O'Reilly, Barry and Danny Kirby, they have a number of guys who have been in and out of the Mayo team. Paddy's brother James and Donie Newcombe have been with Mayo for the two years.

"Their strength and conditioning will be right up there. They're very good at turning you over and Paddy Durcan breaks the line at super speed."

He's reminded that when Corofin won their first All-Ireland in 1998, Gerry Burke, father of Corofin footballer and hurling All-Star Dáithí was playing at the age of 40. That's not a target but Fitzgerald admits that if he can keep going, he will.

"He (Gerry) kicked two points that day. Some of the lads from 2015, their dads won in 1998. Ronan Steed's father, Eddie, was full-forward. I don't know about going till 40, we'll see.

"We could lose on Sunday and I'll have to reassess things then. Whenever my season finishes, I'll look at things and see how I am and see if the hunger is there to go again.

"Since leaving the inter-county scene, I've been relatively lucky with my club. It has been successful. It is hard to leave a good thing there.

"I suppose if I can stay free from injury, chances are I'll keep going."

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