Echo Women in Sport awards: Laura Fitzgerald, Mourneabbey's quiet assassin

Rory Noonan looks at the brilliant forward's record of coming up with big scores in big games for Mourneabbey
Echo Women in Sport awards: Laura Fitzgerald, Mourneabbey's quiet assassin

Hat-trick hero and Player of the Game Laura Fitzgerald with possession for Mourneabbey in the Munster final. Picture: Larry Cummins.

MEET Laura Fitzgerald as you walk down the street and you will come across someone that is always smiling and appears to be in good form.

You get the impression that on a social occasion she would be the life and soul of any party.

But like many top-class players don’t let that good humour fool you. Once Laura crosses that white line she will give it everything to win, be it a challenge game or an All-Ireland final.

Some have called her the ‘smiling assassin’ over the years and in terms of getting crucial scores for her side, Mourneabbey ladies footballers, they are 100% right.

Time after time Laura gets the all-important score needed to either turn a game or else win it for her club.

She has always been proud to wear the club colours and even though she constantly crops up with those crucial scores it is her work rate that also always gets a special mention from her team-mates.

After their recent win over Aherlow, in the Munster Club championship final, it was one of the first things that former Cork captain Doireann O’Sullivan mentioned about Laura.

In that game Laura had scored a hat-trick of goals, repeating her feat in the semi-final but Doireann was quick to say how she had led by example with her tackling and work to get the ball back when they had lost it.

“It wasn’t a day for fancy football (due to the weather conditions) but for working hard which I thought we did,” said Doireann.

“I think Laura Fitz set down a marker there in terms of work-rate. She was inside full-forward and I’d say came away with some of the highest turnovers. Se did very well and deservedly got Player of the Game.

“I think she set the standard and has a very good head for the game. When someone is coming through with the ball she times her runs perfectly. We mock her about being a goal-hanger but she is always in the right place at the right time to get some crucial scores for us.”

Laura Fitzgerald is presented with her award by Ger McCarthy, with Jerome Casey, Munster LGFA. Picture: Larry Cummins.
Laura Fitzgerald is presented with her award by Ger McCarthy, with Jerome Casey, Munster LGFA. Picture: Larry Cummins.

And that is what Laura does game after game, season after season and it was no great surprise to see her named as one of The Echo Women in Sport Winter quarterly award winners for 2021 for her exploits this season.

Laura joins a small band of stars who have won this award twice and on her current form it would be no great surprise to see her go on to be the first to win a third one.

But Laura didn’t start her playing career with Mourneabbey and possibly holds a record in GAA that won’t happen again or aside from Laura is something that hasn’t happened too often.

During her underage playing days, Laura captained a boys side to win a North Cork title, when she was the only girl playing with the Ballyclough U14 footballers.

It shows the calibre of player she is, but to be captain shows the high esteem that her then selectors and team-mates held her in. She started playing at U8 with Ballyclough and continued to play with them up until U14 level.

But after that, as a girl, she was no longer allowed to play with the boys. So knowing this in advance she started playing with Mourneabbey Ladies Football Club.

Few players win county medals at U14 level with two different clubs in the same year, as Mourneabbey also won the girls title that year as well.

SERIAL SUCCESS

Since then Laura has gone on to add U16, minor and seven senior county titles to her impressive medal haul. Add in seven senior Munster titles and two All-Ireland titles and you get some idea of the calibre of player that Laura is.

They are currently preparing for the All-Ireland semi-final which is due to take place on Sunday at Mourneabbey, where they will face Dunboyne from Meath.

But they won’t fear facing a side that contains inter-county stars like Vikki Wall and Emma Duggan as they have plenty of their own.

Mourneabbey's Laura Fitzgerald shoots from Kinsale's Nicole Quinn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Mourneabbey's Laura Fitzgerald shoots from Kinsale's Nicole Quinn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Of course, winning matters at this level, but for them, it’s all about performance and putting in a top one every game and they know if they do that then more often than not they will emerge as victors of whatever game they are playing in.

Cast your mind back two years to when they won the All-Ireland title, the last time the final was played.

With just 16 seconds left on the clock, the sides were level and the ball fell to Laura. She kept her head to turn and point to see Mourneabbey retain the title.

But the measure of Laura and the club was shown after the final whistle.

When interviewed after the game she was able to have a joke over the pass in by Noelle Healy – saying what was she doing lobbying in a high ball to one of the smallest players in the full-forward line!

It may have been said in jest, but it shows the way that Laura and her teammates think, always striving for perfection and always looking to improve.

That’s what makes her the player she is and no doubt will be for a few years yet for Mourneabbey. This is a special club and one that Laura is proud to be part of and she has played a huge part in their success over the years.

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