‘The reception we received in the home of the Meehans was so humbling’

GALWAY ALL-IRELAND winner Kieran Fitzgerald is the next GAA figure to feature in the current season of TG4′s Laochra Gael.

Fitzgerald enjoyed a successful career with the Galway footballers, winning a senior All-Ireland title in 2001 and an All-Ireland U21 crown the following year.

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The episode also features the unprecedented levels of success he enjoyed with Corofin and, his wife — and former Galway ladies footballer — Emer Flaherty.

But the talented defender experienced a huge personal loss following the death of his girlfriend Mairéad Meehan, who was also a sister of the Meehan brothers who played for Galway.

When Fitzgerald won his first All-Ireland title with Corofin in 2015, he brought the trophy to the Meehans in Caltra to include Mairéad’s family in the celebrations.

“To achieve our ultimate goal on behalf of Corofin GAA club was amazing,” he recalls, “and we tried for so long, and there were many players that I played with that didn’t get there. It was for them as well.

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“The reception we received in Caltra and Castleblakeney, the home of the Meehans was so humbling. I saw the joy they had for me and I knew that they wanted me to achieve that and to feel that and have that happiness.”

In a candid account of Mairéad’s life, Fitzgerald explains how she had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma which required various surgeries and treatments.

“When I met her,” Fitzgerald begins, “you would not know she had that trauma behind her.

“She never let that hold her back and she had a personality that was so full of energy, enthusiasm and drive for life. She didn’t allow it to get in her way.

“We didn’t let it overpower us. We were always aware it was there, she was always aware it was there but we didn’t really talk about it unless we had to talk about it. There was always the cloud of an upcoming scan or a test looming.”

In 2006, Fitzgerald lined out for Ireland in the International Rules series against Australia with the first Test taking place in Galway’s Pearse Stadium.

“The following Tuesday,” he continues, “Mairéad had a result of a scan and unfortunately the prognosis of that scan was poor and essentially terminal. So, that was tough.

“As the weeks went on, Mairéad’s condition deteriorated and [she] sadly passed away at the end of January, 2007.”

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Fitzgerald talks about how he struggled to cope with her passing, and the difficulties of trying to return to football.

He remembers how he eventually started to lose his desire to continue playing at inter-county level before deciding to step away in 2011.

Fitzgerald would later enjoy a successful period with his club Corofin, which culminated in an All-Ireland three-in-a-row. The last of those All-Ireland triumphs was in 2020 when Fitzgerald was 39, and still playing a key role in the team that narrowly edged out Kilcoo after extra-time in Croke Park.

The episode is a compelling and moving watch which also features contributions from Michael Meehan, Gary Sice, Stephen Rochford, and Máire Ni Bhraonáin.

You can watch Kieran Fitzgerald’s Laochra Gael on Thursday, 10 February at 9.30pm

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