The recently crowned Limerick champions entertain Glen Rovers in the Munster club hurling semi-final, with Fitzgerald having spent two seasons on the sideline with the Blackpool outfit.
Brother Philip Ryan enlisted the services of the Buttevant native for the 2003 campaign and he was coaxed back into the fold by Tomás Mulcahy for the 2006 season. Both campaigns ended at the quarter-final juncture, with a good cohort of players involved during the latter season due to feature at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.
“I have very good memories of my time there,” said Fitzgerald. “We beat a star-studded Na Piarsaigh side to win the City U21 title in 2003. They had Setanta Ó hAilpín and John Gardiner.
“We had Graham Callanan, Paddy Cunningham, and David Cunningham on that team. They were leaders back then and are still leaders today. These fellas were battlers and are still battlers. I was delighted to see them get their hands on a county medal last year.”
Joining the set-up in 2006 was one Patrick Horgan.
“He had been a Cork minor in 2005, but you could tell in 2003 that Patrick Horgan was going to be big. Every time you went to the Glen he was hitting the ball off the side of the clubhouse. Every time you arrived onto the field, he was there before you. He had a good group around him too. He enjoyed senior club hurling and took on responsibility straightaway.”
Richie Kelleher cut his teeth as a selector during Mulcahy’s tenure. The spirit of the Glen, says Fitzgerald, continues to radiate through the current manager.
“Richie is a fella you might not speak to for 12 months but you could pick up the phone and it would be as if you had been speaking to him yesterday. He is just one of those fellas. You look forward to seeing him and you look forward to his name coming up on your phone.
“He is a smart guy, a knowledgeable fella and he’d do anything for the Glen.”
Kelleher’s opposite number, Gary Kirby, is an individual Fitzgerald first worked with four years ago. A teacher at Castletroy College, Fitzgerald has been coaching various UL teams since 2006. Himself and Kirby took charge of the University’s freshers team in 2012. Kirby as manager, Fitzgerald as coach. Just as it is now.
They’d spend four years with the freshers, winning the competition outright in 2015. From there, it was on to Patrickswell.
“When Gary Kirby tells you he has belief in you, that makes you that little bit taller, that little bit stronger and that little bit faster. Patrickswell couldn’t have a better man leading them. Patrickswell just runs through his blood. What it meant to him to win the county was unbelievable. We get on very well together and there has never been a bad word between us.”
He added: “I’ve been fortunate to have been involved with both clubs. They both have huge traditions and huge pride.”
Meanwhile, Thurles Sarsfields have been dealt a significant injury blow ahead of Sunday’s Munster club hurling semi-final against Ballyea with confirmation key forward Richie Ruth is out with cruciate knee ligament damage. Ruth, 31, sustained grade 2 medial ligament damage during last Sunday’s quarter-final victory over Ballygunner. Ruth’s absence is a setback for Sars as the attacker had been enjoying some brilliant form, scoring 0-5 from play in the county final victory over Kiladangan.