While he’d shown real quality in the league, particularly in the victory over the Premier when he came in as an early replacement for the injured Conor Lehane and slipped over five points, Fitzgibbon was still very much an unknown quantity. He was ripping it up behind closed doors at Cork training though, and an injury to Daniel Kearney on Sars duty opened up a vacancy in midfield.
His new-found status meant he was the Rebel representative at the launch of the Bord Gáis Energy U21 Hurling Championship last week and he admitted this season has brought new challenges.
That approach certainly reaped a reward.
A student in UCC, he dismisses the notion he’s now a big name.
It’s disingenuous to suggest Fitzgibbon came from nowhere. It wasn’t quite ‘zero to hero’ stuff. At club level he inspired Charleville to a Premier 2 county minor final where St Colman’s, coached by Donal Óg Cusack, pipped them.
It truly was a gifted group, which included Deccie Dalton, Tim O’Mahony, Robbie O’Flynn, Michael O’Halloran, David Griffin, Eoghan Murphy and Conor McCarthy, who is now centre-back for Cork City.
Interestingly one of his heroes from the Cork team of the noughties, Ben O’Connor, is now in charge of Charleville, a few miles out the road from O’Connor’s native Newtownshandrum.
“There’s always a bit of slagging about the soccer. It’s a change from the hurling anyway!”