DEATH OF LONG SERVING DEISE GAEL PADDY FITZGERALD
The announcement of the death of Paddy Fitzgerald, Emmett St. Dungarvan on Thursday February 7th has severed a strong link with the organisation of the Gaelic Athletic Association in the Deise County stretching back over fifty years. Many tributes have been to this great Gael in recent days but the greatest perhaps came from the huge amount of members from this and previous generations of his own club, Dungarbhain, who formed such an impressive guard of honour to St. Mary’s Parish church at his funeral last Saturday evening and again on Sunday morning at his burial mass.
Born in 1938, Paddy was a native of Glendog in Colligan and at 22 years of age he starred in goal on the local Rockies side that beat the Tom Cheasty led Ballyduff in the County junior hurling final after a replay. The following year the Colligan club won the same grade in football. Like many of his generation Paddy Fitzgerald followed the emigrant trail across the water during the 1960’s before immersing himself fully for the rest of his life in every facet of the sporting and cultural aspects of the GAA on the return to his native shores.
By the year 1975, the Colligan man had figured so prominently in the promotion of the GAA in the County that he was awarded the inaugural Jack Furlong trophy for services rendered and indeed it wouldn’t have been a travesty of justice if he had become the first person to receive this award on a second occasion during the remaining 44 years of his life as he gave more and more of his time in the development of the games and cultural activities in this County and beyond. Padraig Mac Gearailt was grounds man in the Fraher Field in the 1970’s and the 1980’s and he was the man at the helm when the venue witnessed some great occasions such as the All Ireland senior club hurling final in 1974 which Blackrock of Cork won against Rathnure of Wexford in front of a thronged venue by 3-8 to 1-9. The curtain raiser to this game was the All Ireland schools hurling final which St. Finbarrs of Cork won against St. Kieran’s of Kilkenny by 2-11 to 1-12. The venue being a half way house between Cork and Kilkenny, the Fraher Field was a natural choice for other major games with the organisers always sure of the fine condition of the playing surface under the stewardship of Paddy Fitzgerald. He was in the league of previous minders of the ‘Gaelic Field’ Dan Fraher and Pax Whelan and he went on to prove this with the Dungarvan club in the years ahead.
However, there were many strings to the administrative bow of the man affectionally known as Paddy Fitz. He was treasurer of the Western Board for many years while his promotion of Scor since its inception in 1969 would see him later receiving County, Provincial and National awards for his lifetime work, which included being Chairman of Waterford and Munster Scor for a number of years.
Back in the main steam of the organisation of the Association he would go on to receive a Presidential award and this was only right and proper as he gave his best for all of his life to the GAA and right up to the time of his regretted passing. Settled and working in Dungarvan and when his sons John and Kieran started playing with the Blues, Paddy followed the natural route and joined the local club and it was a lucky day for Dungarvan that he decided to do so. Paddy Fitz will forever be remembered as an icon in the Old Borough club as he became the leader of a dedicated group which delivered a home of their own for the Blues after it was over one hundred years in existence. His capabilities and enthusiasm as a fund raiser and his leadership of people saw the club purchase 22.5 acres of land in Clogherane from the IDA at the end of 1985 for a sum of 85,500 pounds. The development work began in June 1990 and the first game was played there in May 1992. Prior to the official opening of the grounds by GAA President Jack Boothman in 1994, two full length pitches, a juvenile field and a club house costing 82,000 pounds had been developed and the final payment of a total of 300,000 pounds investment in the grounds had been paid.
‘’ This achievement and the continuing development of the Blues new home in later years is the legacy in the Dungarvan club that Paddy Fitzgerald leaves behind him and his name will always be on peoples’ lips when the securing of a home which could not be achieved in the first one hundred years of the life of the club will be mentioned.’’
Padraig Mac Gearailt led the Dungarvan club as chairman from 1990 until his retirement from this position in 2004. During this period he oversaw some great days on the field of play including three in a row senior football title wins from 1990-1992. Involving himself in every facet of the club, Paddy Fitz was a selector on numerous teams including the 1993 under 16 football side that won County honours while his involvement at administrative level never waned. Given his service to the GAA, the knowledge, experience and knowledge that was accumulated over the years, many sought Paddy’s counsel and in this regard he led the Dungarvan club wisely to the end. Yes, his bark was sometimes as bad as his bite but he did it face to face and it was never personal but for the good of his club.
At the time of his death, Padraig Mac Gearailt was chairman of the fundraising committee and of the club development group. At the AGM last December, he was elected vice chair, delegate to the Western and County Boards and oifigeach na Gaeilge. He always had great respect for our teanga naisiunta and every speech he ever made at club occasions commenced as gaeilge. His last such one was on St. Stephen’s Day at the annual fundraising charity walk and run. Paddy’s final committee meeting was on January 2nd and he was to have costings for the proposed Astroturf development at the February meeting. Paddy Fitz was part and parcel of CLCG Dungarbhain until his dying day. Another legend in the story of Waterford GAA has bid farewell.
Sincere sympathy is extended to his wife Mary, children John, Kieran and Grainne and extended families. May the sod of his native land rest lightly on his noble breast. Leaba i measc na Naomh go mbeidh aige.