CASEMENT CELTIC midfielder Richard Fitzgerald couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to his career than to be capped by Ireland in their 5-1 victory over Northern Ireland at St Colman’s Park in 1983.
Casement were then underage high-flyers and Richard, or Minty as he was popularly known, regularly sampled the cup final atmosphere at Turner’s Cross.
Still eligible for schoolboy soccer he was a member of the youths which won the league title in ‘83.
Richard had the distinction of scoring in consecutive Murphy Cup final victories over Glasheen and Everton in 1984 and ‘85.
His opener in the ‘85 final came directly from a corner kick - a speciality which he perfected throughout his busy career.
On his graduation from youth football, he went straight into the Casement senior team who won the Munster Senior League Division 1.
Then followed the strangest decision of his career when instead of helping Casement in the Munster Senior League Premier Division he opted instead to play with Newcomers Doughcloyne in AUL 3.
As expected Doughcloyne ran away with the league and Richie returned to Casement.
Richie couldn’t rest his itchy feet which took him to Passage.
He brought Passage good fortune, teaming up with Paul Coughlan the duo pulled the strings in midfield guiding the Harbour side to an AOH Cup triumph over Grattan.
This was their first in junior football.
And, for good measure they made it a double when adding the Premier League.
Richard who had played Kennedy Cup as a boy and FAI inter League as a youth completed the threesome when playing Oscar Traynor with the AUL Juniors.
His travelling days nearly over he moved nearer home to become player manager of Togher Rover.
The highs and lows continued. Togher were surprisingly beaten after a replay by Grattan in the AOH Cup final in 2006 but had the consolation of an AUL Cup and League double which earned Minty the Manager of the Year Award.
Togher won League 1 in 2007 before Richard, with his regular number 2 Decki O’Regan by his side, managed the AUL team which bridged a 43-year gap when defeating the Dublin AUL 2-1 in the Oscar Traynor Trophy final.
Turning their attention to the minors Minty and Decki took charge of the Cork Youths, and it was only a Seanie Magure hat-trick that helped Kilkenny defeat the Leesiders in the National final in Castlecomer.
With his son now moving up the grades with Killeen, Richie lent a hand.
Several successes followed before they failed agonisingly when beaten 1-0 by Bohs in the FAI Youths Cup final at Dalymount.
These days Richard can be found refereeing every weekend in the Cork Schoolboys League continuing the great work that makes him an obvious choice for a coveted award for Distinguished Service to Cork Football.