Darragh strikes gold for Garden
WHEN Wicklow needed something special to kill off the faltering Offaly challenge they possessed a willing warrior in the form of AGB’s Darragh Fitzgerald.
Introduced in the 67th minute for John McGrath, Fitzgerald had proved busy around the field but it was his exceptional burst of pace that took him through the heart of the Offaly defence and then his sublime and confident finish under Faithful netminder Alan Mulhall that earned him the slaps on the back and the admiration of all Wicklow GAA followers in the aftermath of the superb victory in O’Moore Park last Sunday.
Fitzgerald, a gentleman through and through it must be said, spoke to the Wicklow People after the game and said that as players they knew they had it in them to go on and win this game.
“We went in at half-time and we were down, you know, but we knew we had it in us, we’ve been practicing all year. We hadn’t performed in the league, we knew we had it, we just couldn’t get it to click and with the likes of Leighton (Glynn) and John Evans they really dragged it out of us for the second half,” he said.
“We went in level at the end of the game and we just said, “look, lads, we have this in us”. Our strength and conditioning coach John Barry is, in our opinion, the best in the country and you could see there how it benefited us in extra-time, we had the legs, we were flying, you’d swear it was the first half of normal time,” he added.
As well as that superb goal, the AGB man also put his body on the line when winning a dirty ball around the middle of the field in a move that left him open to potential injury. Knowing that he was being presented with a chance to prove himself meant that there was no way Fitzgerald was going to give anything less than his all when required.
“John Evans said to me before we went out for the second half of extra-time, he said to me, “you’re here to prove yourself, so do it”. And I just said if I have to put my body on the line, that’s what I’m going to do. And it’s not just me, it’s one to 35 or whatever and that’s including the lads not in the panel today,” he said.
The difficult league campaign looked to be a million miles away as the evening shadows fell across a jubilant Wicklow panel and supporters on the field in Portlaoise. Fitzgerald said they believed in themselves completely and the hunt for a starting berth has helped them drive each other on.
“If you don’t have belief in yourself you won’t get anywhere. You have to believe in yourself. We might have been lacking belief over the years, but we really have it installed in us now. The panel was so tough for the guys to pick, everyone is pushing each other and we’re mentally strong as well as physically strong,” he said.
On his goal, the AGB man was as always gracious and deflecting of any praise.
“If you watch it again you’ll see the runners off my shoulders, the likes of Cathal Magee and the lads off me, they opened up the space,” he said.
Darragh Fitzgerald turns from the Offaly goal after his fine strike.
Wicklow’s Darragh Fitzgerald finishes to the back of the Offaly net.