Sunday 19 November 2017

Patience pays dividends as Fitzsimons saves his best until last

Fitzsimons: "You’re not going to get the same opportunity to put your name in the hat." Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Patience is a virtue and Michael Fitzsimons certainly has it in abundance.

While Fitzsimons featured off the bench in each one of Dublin's championship games building up to their All-Ireland final replay win, every player wants to be on the pitch from the outset and he's no different.

Panel depth is paramount to scaling the Hogan Stand steps on All-Ireland final day but that's little solace for those warming the bench. It can stretch your mental resilience to keep rebounding from disappointment and the Cuala defender found it challenging.

Fitzsimons revealed: "I probably go into every game blindly thinking 'this is the game I'm going to start'.

"It doesn't always end up that way. Not that I wasn't expecting it, towards the end of the season you start thinking 'I might be more of an impact sub'.

"Unfortunately I've got used to it the last two years but Kev Mac (McManamon) was the sort of expert on that so he was offering the subs a bit of advice on how to get your head right for coming on.

"It's tough. As it goes past quarter-final, semi-final, you are resigned to not being able to start. As a team is set and they're doing well and they're winning…you're still pushing in training but training sessions aren't as intense towards the end of the season.

"So you know you're not going to get the same opportunity to put your name in the hat. It probably isn't the best way to go. But there's no other way. You can't resign yourself to being on the bench because you're not going to push yourself as hard.


"You're not going to get the best out of yourself in training and in the gym. So you have to drive yourself to start all the time, even if it is unrealistic at times."

Great teams, and great players, persevere in difficult times and the example shown by Bernard Brogan after the former Footballer of the Year was cast aside for the second game highlighted everything that makes Jim Gavin's back-to-back winners so special.

And as someone who has been in a similar position on numerous occasions, Fitzsimons has nothing but respect for Brogan and Michael Darragh Macauley, who took the decision like men by responding in great style.

"The great thing is that no-one throws….you can't really tell when somebody is p***ed off in training, which is the best way to be," the 27-year-old says.

"Like, Bernard wasn't in the team for the replay and he was the most positive man in training.

"And that's indicative of the man. He started all the way up and then, the first game that he's dropped is the final. You could have seen that on his face or in his demeanour but you didn't. And that's massive for every training session.

"Because little things like that can make an impact. You can definitely tell if someone is p***ed off and if they're sulking or they're not giving 100 per cent. I didn't want to be that person."

When the opportunity arose Fitzsimons made no mistake, finishing with the man-of-the-match gong to cap off a dream day as he collected his fourth All-Ireland medal. In that moment all pain is forgotten.

"When you find out you're not in it's tough but the games you play, like the final, makes it all worthwhile."

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