by Declan Rooney
A year ago Kieran Fitzgerald overtook clubmate Trevor Burke as the record Galway championship winner, but after winning his 13th county medal at the weekend he thinks this was one of the sweetest of them all despite being sent off for the first time in his lengthy career.
It took a replay for Corofin to get past Mountbellew/Moylough and along the way Fitzgerald picked up the first red card of his career, but after seeing his side written off in some circles, the 37-year-old former Sam Maguire winner is excited by the future.
Roscommon champions Clann na nGael are next up as Corofin take the next step towards the defence of their Connacht and All-Ireland club titles, but for a day at least Fitzgerald will savour another historic win.
“That’s 13 now but this one was a lot sweeter than many of them. The way it had to be won we were asked a lot of questions, but we got there,” said Fitzgerald.
“We were probably written off a bit before that Annaghdown semi-final and then in the drawn final we didn’t perform at all. We were very grateful to get another opportunity but it wasn't a great performance at all.
“But we are under no obligation to entertain either. We just want to win again and that's the way it turned out.”
After Sunday’s county final 1-8 to 0-5 victory Corofin manager Kevin O’Brien proclaimed that Fitzgerald is still one of the best full-backs in Galway. He was tasked with marking current inter-county star Barry McHugh and he kept him scoreless from open play.
In an ugly game both players were involved in plenty of off the ball wrestling and in the end they were both sent off have being twice booked together. Even on their way off the pitch the duo had to be pulled apart as they refused to finish at the final bell. Fitzgerald regrets his indiscretion.
“Barry is a good footballer and you have to keep as tight as possible to him. I've never been sent off in my life before so that was a shame. I was a bit disappointed but that's the way it happens sometimes.”
Both the draw and replay were very tense affairs, where Mountbellew/Moylough sought to smother Corofin with an ultra-defensive set-up. It worked for the most part, but the champions retained possession more in the replay and their patience paid off. Fitzgerald says he doesn’t expect to see such tactics too often.
“Ideally I suppose we would have liked to play a bit more. We did the best we could but it was a terrible game. It wasn't the way we wanted to play but it was put in front of us and that's what we have to do. We dealt with it well and we learned a lot.
“I don't think we’ll see that anymore. I think a lot of teams just want to play football. I don't think we see it again to be honest and if we do football is in a bad spot.
“Clann na nGael are a good footballing team and I saw their county final. They were very impressive against Brigid’s.
“I worked in Athlone for 10 years and I would have followed them quite closely. I’ve always watched out for themselves and St Brigid’s and watch their players, but we’ll worry about them later in the week. We just go again.”