Long serving goalkeeper decides to call it a day with Tipp.
TIPPERARY’S long-serving goalkeeper Paul Fitzgerald has announced his retirement from intercounty football.
Fitzgerald, who made his senior championship debut against Kerry in 2005, has decided to call time on his career in the blue and gold following a successful season.
Tipperary won the Allianz League Division 4 title and progressed to the last 12 of the All-Ireland series, where they were beaten by Galway.
And Fitzgerald, 36, believes that Tipp can push on to claim Munster senior glory in the coming years, having come desperately close to pulling off a shock victory over Cork in this year’s provincial semi-final.
The Fethard clubman said: “There’s no doubt in my mind that the talent is there.
“What they need to do is just keep working hard, keep the heads down and make small steps every year rather than that big, massive step.
“But it could happen next year, you’d never know. And there are leaders emerging like Colin O’Riordan. He’s a leader of the team at 18 years of age but he leads by example.
“One of the big things I learned through the years with Fethard and Tipp is that you don’t need to be a big speaker in the dressing room to be a leader.
“And (Tipp manager) Peter Creedon is spot on – a manager needs to lead his leaders, with everyone else to follow. That’s what Tipp have. It will take a bit of time, no doubt about it, but most of those lads will hold Munster medals. And I’ll be their number one supporter.”
Fitzgerald, who won a Tommy Murphy cup medal in 2005 before returning to Croke Park this year for more silverware with that Division 4 title, believes that the time is right to step aside.
He explained: “Next year is a big year, to find a new goalie and get him settled. Hopefully they will be able to do that and get promoted.
“I’ll miss it. I’m sad and I’m happy but I thought about it long and hard.
“I said to myself that if we got promoted, beat Limerick and rattled Cork, I’d be happy. We got a good run in the qualifiers but Galway was a bit of a downer because we could have beaten them.
“But I’m still happy to go. I’ve had a decent career and this has been a decent year. I’d rather go on a good note rather than go when things are going bad.
“The timing is right for me and right for the future of the goalkeeping position as well.
“I could have went a few years ago when things were going bad but since Peter came in, it’s been brilliant.”
Fitzgerald added: “The one regret is that I didn’t get to a Munster senior final. I think I played in a Munster final in every grade – minor, U21, junior and two with the club.
“But the last few years have been the highlight, as we’ve become recognised as a good championship team. The National league is great but championship is where it’s at. The profile of Tipp football has been rising and sometimes, you have to gain respect outside of your county before you get it inside.
“The thing has a bit to go yet but I’ve got to play with those young lads who won All-Ireland minor medals and see them emerge as leaders. And the friends you make, friends for life, are better than anything.
“I wish I was 17 again with some of these young fellas but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it – the highs and lows, ups and downs.
“And there were far greater players than me who played for Tipp and won no title at all. Those few things are nice, the national titles and promotions, playing at a high level as well, the championship runs.”