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David Fitzgerald of Clare is congratulated by Brian Lohan, Clare Manager, following their Munster SHC Round Robin, Round 3 game at Thurles. Photograph by John Kelly
David Fitzgerald of Clare is congratulated by Brian Lohan, Clare Manager, following their Munster SHC Round Robin, Round 3 game at Thurles. Photograph by John Kelly

Hurling: If the cap Fitz, wear it


Off the back of a memorable championship summer in which Clare encouragingly made their championship mark, David Fitzgerald is relishing the prospect of trying to surpass that achievement in 2023.
Just as the Banner’s swashbuckling provincial performances ignited the whole county, Fitzgerald was also performing to new heights in the Saffron and Blue jersey, scoring 2-18 in just seven championship ties on the way to deservedly becoming Inagh-Kilnamona’s first All-Star recipient (since Catherine O’Loughlin in 2005 at least).
Being his seventh championship campaign, the stars had finally aligned for Fitzgerald in terms of finally nailing down a starting place. You see, prior to 2022, his versatility of being able to play in either defence or attack essentially made it difficult for him to be a master of one position as evidenced by 11 of his 24 championship appearances between 2016-2021 being from the bench.
“To be honest, with the versatility, just trying to be consistent in a position was tough but last year was obviously better in that I was more settled.
“I think I benefited from the evolution of the game, as with the way hurling has gone now, the middle third is extremely fluid so any player can play between 5 and 12 really and even the more forward minded players can operate anywhere between 5 to 15 if needed.
“It’s just the way the game has gone as it’s now more middle third focused, there’s more ball carrying and you nearly defend as a unit and attack as a unit as proven by Diarmuid [Ryan] and Davy Mc [Inerney] last year. So having a mix of both attacking and defensive attributes is really an asset now in that middle zone.”
Fitzgerald was not alone in soaring to new heights for Clare in 2022 as fellow established panelists Paul Flanagan, David McInerney, Shane O’Donnell and Ryan Taylor were all refreshingly rejuvenated.

New players bring a lot of enthusiasm and freshness to a group but obviously they’re not there to make up numbers, they want to break into the first 15 or match day 26 so the National League is a great opportunity for the whole squad to impress and build towards the Munster Championship.

“Getting through the group in Munster, we put together a lot of consistent performances and we really gelled as a unit. Limerick are obviously the standard-bearers but we were able to keep with them and drew with them three times last year albeit that the Munster Final outcome was a disappointment in being so close but not winning.
“So there is a lot to build on from last year and the fact that our challenge kind of petered out in the All-Ireland series also gives us plenty to work on as well.
“Realistically Munster is so competitive that any one of the teams in the province would fancy their chances of not only winning Munster but have a great shot of winning the All-Ireland as well. “With new management teams in Cork, Waterford and Tipperary, there is a lot of fresh thinking and enthusiasm once more so it’s completely up in the air as to the three teams that can qualify for the All-Ireland series but it’s a challenge that we’ll look forward to when it comes around.”
First things first is the National League which Fitzgerald sees as the ideal breeding ground to flesh out their squad and also get valuable game-time before another summer assault.
“A lot of younger talent are coming through. The likes of Mark Rodgers and Shane Meehan have really developed into extremely talented players. We have players coming back from long term injury such as Aidan McCarthy who missed the entire season last year and in addition there are new players brought in on the back of good club and Under 20 form such as John Conneally and Jack Kirwan, all of which will be good options for the year ahead.
“New players bring a lot of enthusiasm and freshness to a group but obviously they’re not there to make up numbers, they want to break into the first 15 or match day 26 so the National League is a great opportunity for the whole squad to impress and build towards the Munster Championship.
“The way the inter-county season is so condensed now, the League is almost a replica of the round-robin games in Munster so trying to build fitness, get game-time into the players and deepening the squad will be the main priorities. With the make-up of the group with Limerick, Galway, Cork, Westmeath and Wexford, they are all good challenges to build ahead for the championship.”
Our time is at an end and we didn’t even get to mention the significance of that All-Star award last October?
“I didn’t expect Clare to get three All-Stars to be honest so it was a great bonus. You’d obviously rather a Munster or an All-Ireland medal in your back pocket so hopefully we can get to that this year.”

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