The most striking thing about Darragh Fitzgibbon upon meeting him is his shyness. As he tugs on his compression top whilst answering questions you can’t help but think ‘is this really the All-Star midfielder?’.
A humble and unassuming character, it’s clear that the Cork star struggles with being so well known, but how exactly does he deal with it? It’s a topic of conversation that the young Charleville man has no time for, because at the end of the day, no matter how famous he may become, in Cork, you are judged on one thing and one thing only.
“I think everyone at home, my family and friends make sure that I keep grounded, but I suppose it’s important to stay grounded.” He told Pundit Arena.
“Look, you don’t know what’s going to happen from one game to the next. You are only as good as your last game. We’ve had success with Cork and Charleville, but in Cork you are judged on how many All-Ireland’s you’ve won and I haven’t done that yet.”
This attitude only motivates Fitzgibbon to take the next step with Cork following two agonising All-Ireland semi-final defeats in a row.
With the margins being so small in hurling right now, Fitzgibbon knows that one puck of a ball or swing of the ash could make or break a summer.
“Yeah, as I said, in Cork you are judged on how many All-Ireland’s you’ve won.” Fitzgibbon said.
“Look there is nothing between any team in the All-Ireland series. We were up by six points in an All-Ireland semi-final against the eventual champions, the margins are so fine.
“I think a puck of a ball in this year’s championship could change the direction. Last year could easily have been a Cork & Clare final, but it wasn’t. It was Limerick & Galway and fair play to them for getting there, but we are going to train hard this year and try to improve and see where it takes us.”
The Cork hurling sensation will take to the field on Sunday with his club Charleville as they go in search of an All-Ireland intermediate title.
It brings the curtain down on a fantastic 12 months for the midfielder that saw him win another Munster title, as well as pick up a maiden All-Star award.
“It’s been a great year so far. I suppose going from Cork back into Charleville straight away I haven’t really had much time to look back on things.” Fitzgibbon said.
“It kind of just kept on going, but it’s great to be looking forward to an All-Ireland final with your club. It’s something that you couldn’t have imagined a couple of years ago and to be up here now is just unbelievable.”
This Sunday’s game represents pastures new for all in Charleville. A first All-Ireland final followed by senior hurling for the first time in over 50 years.
Fitzgibbon admits that the players are getting all the plaudits, but the credit must go to those members who put the correct structures in place so that a group of young men could thrive.
“Growing up we were only playing at junior level and I suppose we were looking at local clubs playing senior and they were having unbelievable success, it’s the players that are getting the credit but the structures were put in place for us growing up.
“We were hurling at the top-level from underage the whole way up and that was because of the work going on in the background. To get to were we are is all down to the structures that were put in place for us.”
Whilst it may be new territory for all in Charleville, their coach brings a lot of All-Ireland pedigree to the table having won all there is to win in the game.
Ben O’Connor is a legend in the Rebel County and was Fitzgibbon’s hero growing up.
“When we were growing up Ben & Jerry were winning All-Irelands with Cork and Newtownshandrum, they were idols to us with all the success they had and for him to come out and train us, it’s an honour to play for him.”
“They really are at the top-level, I think Ben & Jerry won every award you can win in hurling. The success we’ve had is a testament to the work put in by management and the players because it was a disappointing season last season, we met last November and we got going in the gym and said that we were going to try and make it better, but no-one knew we’d make it this far, it’s been a fantastic journey.”
This Sunday marks the biggest game in the history of Charleville and the biggest game of this young star’s life, but for now, the aim is to focus in the lead-up to the final and not get carried away with the buzz around town.
“Yeah, definitely, an All-Ireland final with your club in Croke Park is amazing and for a small club like Charleville you never thought you would get this far.” He said.
“We are not getting carried away but the town is buzzing. It’s great for the kids as well, when I was growing up I was looking at a junior club, now the kids are going to be coming into a senior club and they get to come to Croke Park next week and support Charleville and that is just amazing.”
Darragh Fitzgibbon of Charleville was in attendance ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Intermediate Hurling Club Championship Final taking place at Croke Park on Sunday, February 10th.