Fitzgerald’s persistence is finally rewarded

MAURICE Fitzgerald won his first county senior championship medal yesterday.

You may not have noticed, because even in November the GAA pages get pretty choked up with provincial club championships and player of the year awards and goodness knows what else, but it was an enjoyable consequence of South Kerry’s 1-13 to 2-5 victory over Laune Rangers.

Enjoyable, because it crowns a career that was long un-rewarded, and because it reminds you of just how good Fitzgerald was.

He had an array of skills which gave Gaelic football fans a trump card any time the appeal of their sport was in the pot. That immaculate kicking style was so distinctive that it could have been identified in silhouette, and its consistent excellence gave Kingdom fans solace at a time when many wondered if Fitzgerald’s career would ever be franked by a Celtic cross.

Fitzgerald’s reaction was one of utter calmness. “It was worth waiting for,” he said, after South Kerry regained the title for the first time since 1982 yesterday. “It was personally very satisfying, at the end of a long time trying. I always believed it was going to happen.”

The beginning was bright: Fitzgerald lit up Páirc Uí Chaoímh as a teenager in the 1988 Munster final with a nonchalant 10 points, and in his first year in college he brought UCC the Sigerson Cup.

However, the St Mary’s man then put down almost a decade in green and gold before seeing Croke Park’s dressing rooms in September.

Still, when Fitzgerald made it to an All-Ireland final, in 1997, he simply took over the occasion. If you’re foggy on the details, try the points with left and right, which set Mayo back on their heels; you’ve got nine to choose from.

A county medal and a quick grasp of the Bishop Moynihan Cup as it went around the South Kerry dressing-room might seem little enough reward for a third decade playing senior football, but if Fitzgerald’s career taught him anything, it was patience.

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