Kerry native tasked with reviving Beara's proud football tradition at senior

Andrew Fitzgerald has extensive experience with Spa in Killarney
Kerry native tasked with reviving Beara's proud football tradition at senior

Beara's Ben O'Sullivan being tackled by Ballincollig's Harry Ahern and Tadhg O'Connell in last season's Rebel Óg U18 final the division won. Picture: Denis Boyle

NEW manager Andrew Fitzgerald has been tasked with rekindling the Beara division’s fortunes ahead of the 2022 Bon Secours Cork premier senior football championship.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Beara’s previous Cork SFC county final success. The rural division overcame Castlehaven 1-10 to 1-7 in a replay following a 0-10 to 0-10 draw in 1997.

Beara, champions in 1997. Picture: Des Barry
Beara, champions in 1997. Picture: Des Barry

Beara has always maintained a proud tradition when it comes to football, winning the county senior title on six occasions. Unfortunately, they have not tasted success at senior level since those heady days of 97’ and, in more recent times, struggled to make any impact.

Thankfully, things are changing both on and off the pitch and there is a sense of renewed optimism.

Kerry native Andrew Fitzgerald has taken over as Beara’s senior manager and is looking forward to reviving a proud footballing heritage. Initially, Fitzgerald worked as a physical therapist before moving into coaching.

“I have always been involved with coaching in my local club Spa, in Killarney, down through the years.

“I still work with players in a physical capacity. Hip-mobility is a big word in GAA right now, helping players to play longer and avoid injuries. During lockdown, that evolved into field sessions and my work became more individual player-focused, working on their skills and getting them to be the best footballer they can be.” 

Fitzgerald represented Spa at every age grade from U10 up to senior and with divisional side East Kerry at various stages throughout his playing career as well.

Coaching was a natural progression for the Kerry native. He the East Kerry minors in 2014 and is coaching Sneem/Derrynane this coming season. He has also experience with Kerry club Templenoe and numerous underage development squads.

CHALLENGE

Taking over a divisional squad is never easy, not least because of the increased demands on the modern-day club footballer. Andrew Fitzgerald understands the challenges that lay ahead but also the potential to kickstart the process of bringing Beara back to the top table of Cork GAA.

“There is a geographical challenge when it comes to the Beara peninsula as well as players working away from home but I fully understand that.

“On the plus side, this is a football-only area of the county. This year, in particular, being the 25-year-anniversary of Beara’s county final victory, and knowing how proud they are of that achievement, represents an extra incentive.

“The big thing from my perspective is that every Beara club footballer should be trying to play at the highest level available to them. That’s where the Beara division ticks all the boxes for the club player.

“Also, the work being done behind the scenes at the moment by Joseph Blake and Mike Murphy to make Beara a professional setup that players want to be involved with is fantastic.” 

So, what would the new Beara manager say to a footballer of decent pedigree who might be on the fence about committing to the division for 2022?

“From my own perspective here at home, I would have been involved with the East Kerry division as a senior footballer,” Fitzgerald answered.

“It was a prestigious thing to be asked to play for the East Kerry division. Things went downhill for a while and East Kerry had little or no success. A lot of talented players may not have put themselves forward during that time.

“In recent years, fellas would bite your hand off to play for an East Kerry division that has gone on to win a couple of county championships in a row.

It only takes a small thing to get the ball rolling. The big thing in Beara’s favour this year is the fact we will have a divisional round-robin tournament and a minimum of three games.

“That gives Beara time to prepare and get our structures in place. My immediate challenge is to try and help every Beara footballer become the best player they can possibly be.

“Beara won the U18 Premier 1 Championship last year and produced a lot of inter-county minors over the last number of years. So, we also need to put foundations in place for Beara to build on in the coming years.”

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