FitzGerald: Cork star of the ’50s

Former Cork footballer Niall FitzGerald, who died last week, was a key member of the teams which lost the All-Ireland senior finals of 1956 and 1957 to Galway and Louth respectively and he also played in three losing Railway Cup finals with Munster.

A former Army Colonel, he won the first of two county championship medals in 1953 with Collins. The other came nine years later — with Macroom — in what was the last of their 10 title victories.

While he operated at midfield in the two finals, he was chiefly regarded as a leading centre-forward, also excelling at full-forward. He enjoyed a lengthy inter-county career with Cork at senior level, beginning in the early ’50s. His most successful season, in terms of medals won, was in 1956.

Firstly, he was on the winning team which defeated Meath in the league final and he scored the winning point against Kerry in a replayed Munster final in Killarney. The game marked Mick O’Connell’s first final for the Kingdom.

FitzGerald admitted to me in an interview years later that he wasn’t the best finisher, recalling that there were several Kerry backs ‘hanging’ off him as he went through for the winning score — and somebody joked that if they had left him alone he would have kicked it wide!

He won another provincial medal the following year against Waterford and, in the 1966 final, he came in as a substitute to pick up a third medal, also against Kerry.

He also played in the All-Ireland semi-final, when Cork lost narrowly to a Galway team which went on to complete the three-in-a-row.

His Railway Cup final appearances were against Connacht in ’57 and ’58 and against Leinster in ’59.

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