Remembering GAA great Tony Fitzgerald

Email to Terrace Talk – November 2020

It would be lovely if you could give a mention about Limerick GAA stalwart and lifelong GAA fan Tony Fitzgerald who passed away after a battle with illness on October the 6th 2020. It will be his months mind this week and he enjoyed the show.

He captained Limerick footballers to the Munster Final against Kerry in 1965. This year was Limericks return to Munster senior football for the first time since 1952 and they returned with a bang. They beat Waterford in the first round then they came up against a Cork team (who would go on to win the Munster championship in 1966&1967. Nobody gave Limerick any chance as this Cork team contained household names such as Billy Morgan. Limerick triumphed 2-5 to 6 points. Next they faced Kerry in the Munster final Limerick hadn’t won a Munster since 1896 when a club commercials represented them. Limerick “fought fire with fire” they led 2-5 to 6 points at half time the final score doesn’t reflect the hard time kerry were given as there was only a goal in it till late in the game kerry pulled away as a goal from the late Bernie O’Callaghan who also assisted in a second goal glossed the scored board.

This was Kerry’s 8th consecutive Munster title. Kerry would go on to lose the all Ireland final as this was the era of Galway’s 3 in a row side. Limerick lost the Munster final but won the hearts of many as the played attacking football. Tony Fitzgerald their captain became a household name.

Born in Askeaton. He captained Ballysteen a club in the parish of Askeaton to become the limerick club champions 1964 after leading them up the ranks from when they won junior in 1961. They met Shannon rangers in the first round of the Munster senior club championship in 1965 in  Ballylongford which was the hotbed of football in Kerry at the time the pitch always held top games and was in great condition and the town was a football stronghold where the town was lively on matchday. Shannon rangers won comfortably but the game was level at half time. The late Johnny Walsh had a set up with shannon rangers based out of ballylongford at the time that would make most inter county teams jealous.

A young Brian McCarthy scored 4-1 on the day. The same brian McCarthy who scored over 9 points in an all Ireland minor semi final v Derry. He was the David Clifford of the era. Amazingly he was never selected to play for Kerry seniors in league or championship. Father Linnane who was over many Saint Brendan’s college in Killarney teams over the year told a man from mount coal who has to affiliation to the ballylongford club that Brain Mcarthy was the best footballer to ever come through the school!

Following the loss to Shannon Rangers. The captain of ballysteen Tony Fitzgerald was instrumental in ballysteen joining with askeaton as it is the same parish. Football was progressing in Askeaton and not just on the playing field as ” Mai Collins was a member of the Askeaton GAA committee and the only woman occupying a position on an executive body of the GAA in Ireland.”    Following this Askeaton would go on to be Limerick Senior champions in 1965 &1966 &1972. Tony played with Austin stacks for a year in in 1971 as askeaton were banned from all competitions for a year after a serious row broke out after a county final with Oola after some dubious decisions. Tony was in Tralee at the time and the banks were on strike. Tony worked in the bank all his life and he was the bank of Ireland branch manager in Glanmire cork before retirement where he lived in youghal.

He initially spent a year and a half in Maynooth in his youth as he was going to become a priest until he met my beautiful aunty Aileen Kennedy also of Askeaton. From Kennedys bar in the square still run today by my uncle Thomas Kennedy having been in the family since the late 1700’s. They married and had 3 boys. Tony continued on with the Limerick footballers and he was referred to as “the prince of limerick football”. He played centre half for Munster rugby schoolboys in his youth but football was his passion. He really became a household name when he played centre back for Munster footballers in the railway cup in 1966&1967 a claim not many Limerick footballers could make at the time. He played alongside many greats in those teams Mick o dwyer and co. When I asked him before who was the best player he ever played with or against or who he had seen he gave 3 names outside of his own club mates, Jerd carroll (ballydonghue), Paud donoghue (ballylongford) and he said the greatest ever Mick o Connell (valentia). Whom tony marked initially in the 1965 final and kept him at bay until kerry switch mick o Connell away from him. Tony Fitzgerald will be forever remembered for his greatness on the field of play but also his kindness on and off the field of play a gentleman to quote the great patsy o Connell of Tarbert.

I would really appreciate if you could share this information with your listeners as Tony loved the show and anything football related which was unique for a Limerick man. Through football he made many friends in those great kerry teams that he came up against.

Many thanks,

Thomas Kennedy