IT was standing room only at Fitzgerald’s Pub in Thomondgate as the sterling service Tony Fitzgerald has given to Ballynanty Rovers was recognised.
FAI General Manager Noel Mooney was on hand to present the lifelong clubman with the John Sherlock contribution to football award.
Tony was one of the first people to get involved with the northside club shortly after its foundation in 1955, and since then, has held a variety of positions, as current chairman Ger Doherty noted.
“He’s not just a clubman, he’s a legend of ours. Over 60 years, he has given great service to our club, as a player, as chairman, as treasurer. Numerous positions he would have held. He’s a gentleman, and an absolute privilege to work with,” Ger told the crowd.
FAI boss Noel said growing up in Cappamore, clubs in the county always looked up to sides like Ballynanty Rovers, saying: “Ye were like Real Madrid to us!”
“Tony’s love for ‘Balla’ as we can all see has remained strong, it’s stronger than ever. You were a versatile footballer, you had trials with the Republic of Ireland, with the late Peter O’Halloran and our great friend Johnny Giles captained that school’s team, so you got to play with some of the best around for sure,” he said.
However, Mooney said it was as a football administrator Tony came into his own.
He added: “The purchase of playing facilities at Knockalisheen showed tremendous fortitude and strength to bring people with you and get it sorted. Your influence on the ongoing story of Ballynanty has been immense.”
Metropolitan district leader, Cllr James Collins was also present to join in the celebration.
“Legend is a word which is apt in this circumstance. I think the number of people who have shown up this evening is a testament to Tony, to all the Fitzgeralds, and the amount of effort and time they’ve put into Ballynanty Rovers over the years,” he said, “I cannot think of anyone in local football more deserving of this.”
It was also revealed that Tony was invited to receive the prize in Dublin – but he opted to stay in Limerick so more people could enjoy the occasion.
“Sometimes when people get these awards, they do them in big hotels in Dublin, and it’s a bit sterile. This is anything but sterile – it’s fantastic. Well done.” - Mooney added.
The last words went to Tony, who said: “On behalf of myself, my wife and my family, I’d like to thank everyone who has made this night possible. It’s been a wonderful occasion, and it’s been great to see so many of my old friends coming out.”
He insisted that he is not done with the club either.
“We'll be there for Balla forever,” he smiled.
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