"Apologies for my language" - Mick Fitzsimons delivers great interview after epic David Clifford duel
"How could you not just love the guy? He is such a warrior.""
Mick Fitzsimons had just held one of the best players of his generation to 0-3 [0-2 from play] in an All-Ireland final, on his way to claiming a ninth Celtic Cross, but he was almost more worried about dropping an f-bomb on RTÉ.
The Cuala defender joined James McCarthy and Stephen Cluxton in winning his record-setting ninth All-Ireland SFC medal, after Dublin beat reigning champions Kerry by two points, at Croke Park.
Ahead of the game, Fitzsimons and Cormac Costello had almost been taking lumps out of each other as both men readied themselves for the challenge of facing Kerry. Fitzsimons was tasked with keeping Clifford, the Kingdom's captain and talisman, as quiet as possible. There were some hairy moments - as there always is facing the Fossa forward - and Lee Gannon pitched in to help on one important occasions, but Fitzsimons did a number on his man.
Clifford was often used to suck in Fitzsimons, and other blue jerseys, before teeing the ball up for teammates to get clear shots. He scored an early point from play then switched into facilitator mode. The only issue was, Kerry teammates were skewing shots wide. They were at 0-4 for the first half when Clifford, as he often does, made something out of nothing and set up Paul Geaney to score.
Kerry led by a point at the break but, with Fitzsimons all over Clifford and conditions not helping, they let Dublin back into the game. At one stage, between the 51st and 65th minutes, they were scoreless and flat. In the 62nd minute, Paudie Clifford scolded his brother for not finding him, free inside, when he was wayward with a shooting effort. Fitzsimons was breathing down his neck, and now Paudie was too.
Mick Fitzsimons gives thoughts to RTÉ
Following the game, which saw Dublin win their 31st All-Ireland title, Mick Fitzsimons spoke with RTÉ reporter Damian Lawlor, down by the pitch.
With Aslan playing out on the Croke Park public address system, Fitzsimons hailed the "unbelievable" Dublin supporters and stressed that the win was 'the culmination of a lot of hard work since 2021'.
Asked about what it took to get Dublin back to another All-Ireland final victory - their ninth since 2011 - Fitzsimons made a brief slip up that he later apologised for. It just showed the emotions involved in getting to the summit again.
"The management have taken serious blows. They've f**king... excuse me. They've shouldered a lot of the criticism for us, and we've performed really, as a team, for two years. Very inconsistent but that affected us in championship.
"I know it was scrappy and may not have been the picturesque game that everyone would've wanted but for us to go out and do it for them [fans] and do it for the teammates. Like, James McCarthy, how could you not just love the guy? He is such a warrior."
Fitzsimons would later say sorry for the curse but Lawlor interjected and said he had nothing to apologise for, as he had been grabbed off the pitch to chat. RTÉ opted not to tweet out the full interview.
Michael Fitzsimons pays tributes to the veterans of the Dublin panel after winning the All-Ireland final pic.twitter.com/KUzWo4ozOL
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) July 30, 2023
On his nine medal wins, and why he keeps coming back, Mick Fitzsimons paid credit to the coaches for allowing him time off for his studies and exams, and for backing him when he felt his form dipped.
"Sticking to your own game-plan," and having teammates to back him up whenever he may have slipped or erred were key, he said, for keeping that lid on David Clifford, as much as he could.
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