Fitzgerald, one of the most decorated goalkeepers of the modern era lined out for his club when first choice, Derek Fahy, suffered a facial injury in the quarter-final. Fitzgerald’s reflexes remain as sharp as ever with two diving saves denying Conor Ryan and Conor McGrath in the final quarter.
In a pulsating tie, 2009 champions Cratloe, led 1-9 to 1-8 at the break. McGrath flicked to the Sixmilebridge net on 12 minutes with Declan Morey’s goal in the dying seconds of the half bringing the Bridge to within a point.
“The most important thing I wanted to do was not to let the lads down. The reason I came back was to help them out and thank God I didn’t let them down. For Conor McGrath’s shot I only saw it at the last second as there were bodies in front of me but thankfully my agility is still there and I managed to get it around the post,” he said.
“And for Conor Ryan’s effort, the most important thing was that Conor McGrath was on the way in and I had be sure to get it out to where our own lads were.”
Despite helping his club to their first decider since 2002, Fitzgerald is content to sit it out, if Fahy proves fit.
“I told them if Derek is right then Derek is playing. I’ve no problem stepping aside, I’m not expecting to hold my place for the next day,” remarked Fitzgerald candidly.
However he was less forthcoming about his expected endorsement as new Clare boss, insisting: “we’ll see Tuesday night what the story is.”
Scorers for Sixmilebridge: N Gilligan 0-9 (0-5 f), Declan Morey (1-2), C Morey (0-2), Danny Morey, P Sheehan, T Carmody, J Shanahan (0-1) each.
Scorers for Cratloe: C McGrath 1-6 (0-5f), C McInerney (0-2), S Collins (0-2), P Collins, C Ryan, D Browne (0-1) each.
SIXMILEBRIDGE: D Fitzgerald; T Keogh, P Fitzpatrick, A Quilligan; J Fennessy, S Morey, R Conlan; S Golden, P Sheehan; Declan Morey, R Shanahan, J Shanahan; Danny Morey, N Gilligan, C Morey.
Subs: T Purcell for Fennessy (45), T Carmody for Sheehan (52).
CRATLOE: S Hayes; John O’Gorman, B Duggan, D Ryan; E Boyce, M Hawes, L Markham; S Chaplin, M ‘Ogie’ Murphy; D Browne, S Collins, C Ryan; C McInerney, C McGrath, P Collins.
Subs: T O’Connor for S Chaplin (49), P Chaplin for P Collins (57).
Referee: A Heagney (Corofin)