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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Mick finally fitz bill for Dublin

Replay start made 'tough' 2016 sub role worthwhile

Dublin's Michael Fitzsimons keeps the ball away from Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea (r) in the All-Ireland SFC final replay. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin's Michael Fitzsimons keeps the ball away from Mayo’s Diarmuid O’Connor and Aidan O’Shea (r) in the All-Ireland SFC final replay. Photo: Sportsfile

It's not that Mick Fitzsimons wasn't expecting to get a start in this year's All-Ireland final replay.

It's just that after years of, as he put it: "going into every game blindly thinking 'this is the game I'm going to start'," that same optimism had started to thin.

"As it goes past quarter-final, semi-final, you are resigned to not being able to start," he explains.

Yet by virtue of Dublin's inability to hold on to that three-point lead in the drawn All-Ireland final and Jim Gavin's inclination to shake his team up for the replay, Fitzsimons is reflecting now on a year that saw him largely frustrated in his goal to become a starter, yet finished with a fourth medal and a Man of the Match award in the replay.

It wasn't even close either.

The Cuala man was the across-the-board choice as the most influential player in Dublin's victory six nights later, something he didn't really get a sense of at the time.

Decision

"That was one of the games that you get sucked into it and it sort of flows by, you are not really over-thinking anything," he explains.

"It's when you are not playing well that a game might go by slowly and you are thinking about every single decision you made.

"But I didn't really have to think back, bar maybe when I made that hand-pass and I thought 'Jesus, maybe I could have done better there'.

"But other than that it flew by, and I didn't really think at any stage that I would be nominated for it because a lot things I was picking up was breaking ball or a bit of tackling and you don't know how that looks in the grand scheme of things."

He did, of course, have a late chance to crown the evening as perfect when Fitzsimons took off for the Mayo goal and every manner of possibility opened itself up before him.

His pass to Bernard Brogan wasn't as accurate or disguised as it needed to be and ultimately, Dublin got nothing for his foray.

"I was the last man back so I sort of saw it open up and went for it," Fitzsimons explains.

"But unfortunately it didn't really achieve much except a bit of panic!"

Fitzsimons admits that his mind was sufficiently unpolluted by resentment over not starting any of the previous games, which led to a calm build-up to the replay.

Nor did he see his performance therein as some form of personal vindication, indicative of a blind spot in Jim Gavin's judgement.

Exceptional

"Unfortunately, I've got used to it the last two years," he says of the preparation to Championship matches as a substitute.

"But Kev Mac was the sort of expert on that, so he was offering the subs a bit of advice on how to get your head right for coming on.

"Yeah, it's tough.

"Maybe if you'd been starting for a while and you got dropped it's tougher but you saw what Bernard did and Macauley, that was just exceptional.

"It must be harder when you've been starting to do it but once you've been on the bench for a while it becomes a bit easier just to keep focused.

"I probably go in with the mentality thinking 'this is going to be the game that I'm starting.'

"But I could be miles away from starting and I probably go into each game like that thinking that I've done enough to get in.

"And when you find out that you're not in it's tough.

"But any of the games that you feature in, or (starting) the final makes it all worthwhile."

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