It’s Tuesday evening in the village of Corofin. Outside Raftery’s pub sits a car painted saffron and green. Printed on the bonnet, doors, and boot are the names of each Corofin panellist, as well as management.
Our attention is drawn inside Raftery’s pub when we spot Laura Connolly, of Galway Greyhound Stadium, walking a greyhound in the side door of the local. It’s all part of a fundraising night at the dogs to boost club coffers ahead of tomorrow’s visit to Croker.
Corofin footballers Michéal Lundy and Kieran Fitzgerald are told to stand in beside the hound for a picture. Lundy is already wearing a Corofin jersey, but there’s a bit of a search to locate a shirt for Fitzgerald. Eventually, the number 10 jersey is thrown at the full-back and a joke is made that he’s never been that high up the pitch in his life.
Mind you, that he’s still holding down any position inside the whitewash is a credit to Fitzgerald.
The Ballinrobe-based garda turned 37 in January and is now into his 21st year with the Corofin senior footballers.
“It’s like everything; there’s a bit of luck, stay free from injury, and a bit of discipline in terms of how you look after yourself,” says Fitzgerald, ever modest.
No more than 39-year old Tomás Ó Sé for Nemo, Fitzgerald delivered a superb performance during their All-Ireland semi-final win over Moorefield. Pictures from the end of the game captured Fitzgerald on his knees, both fists tightly clenched and his face etched with delight. Getting back to Croke Park means a hell of a lot to him.
“When you get to 37, you don’t know when the last time is the last time. With niggles and knocks, you don’t know. After losing to Crokes last year, you are wondering is that it.
“It was a huge relief to get over the Moorefield game. It wasn’t how we had planned it. It was a satisfying win, in terms of how we won it.”
To give an idea of the full-back’s longevity on the playing field, it is 17 years since he made his Croke Park debut.
“It was the National League final against Mayo in 2001. We lost by a point, 0-13 to 0-12. I was marking Ronan Loftus. He was a schoolmate of mine from our days in St Jarlath’s, Tuam. We knew each other well, probably too well. We were chatting away. That is a long time ago.”
Fitzgerald finished that year with an All-Ireland medal, adding an All-Ireland club medal in 2015. How he’d dearly love to double the latter collection.
“It is, honest to God, what you dream about from a very young age. I remember going to club finals and watching Nemo.
“My dad and I were at one involving St Finbarr’s in the 80s. To be involved on Paddy’s Day is super.”
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