Treaty United club historian Gary Spain presents a series recalling some of the best players to grace the senior soccer scene in Limerick. In the second of his series, Gary talks about one of the greatest goalkeepers to have represented Limerick senior teams: the great Kevin Fitzpatrick.
They say “Never meet your heroes” but Kevin Fitzpatrick makes a mockery of that. Growing up Kevin was my hero. He played with Limerick through good times and bad in a 22-year career that saw him win every major honour in the domestic game.
Kevin was part of the Limerick C team that won the Munster Minor Cup in 1960 defeating Fairview Rangers in the Final. Limerick FC had just been crowned champions for the first time but Sonny Price had no hesitation in naming Kevin then aged 17 in goal for his debut v Celtic in a glamour friendly.
Kevin certainly impressed visiting manager Jimmy McGrory who name checked him afterwards as his saves ensured the game finished level.
Kevin initially suffered heartbreak as Limerick lost successive FAI Cup Finals to Shamrock Rovers in 1965 and 1966. The first was the club’s first FAI cup final. Rovers were fortunate to earn a replay and edged it by the only goal.
Kevin’s form was so good in 1969 that he was selected in goal for the national team’s FIFA World Cup qualifier v Czechoslovakia in Prague.
A first national medal for Kevin came at the end of his first decade in senior football as Limerick defeated league champions Waterford in the Dublin City Cup Final replay at Kilcohan Park. The following season the FAI Cup
came to Shannonside for the first time and Kevin was a vital part of that side. The 1971Final ended scoreless which included a crucial save from Shawcross. Kevin kept another cleansheet the following Wednesday as Limerick ran out 3-0 winners. A crucial save from Cullen just before the interval kept the game scoreless at the break.
A group of young players came together under Ewan Fenton to win the 1975 League Cup. Kevin was now an experienced player and his penalty save in the 2nd leg in Sligo ensured the first leg advantage was never threatened. Another FAI Cup Final appearance followed in 1977 but Dundalk took the cup.
In 1980 the league title was won by Eoin Hand’s Limerick FC for the second time. Kevin was ever present in goal and made a huge contribution to that title success. He made many crucial saves throughout the season and one that earned a point v St. Pats stands out. However it was also the confidence he gave to the defence that made the difference when Limerick edged Dundalk to the title by a point.
Two years later Limerick FC reached the FAI Cup Final for the 5th time. Kevin had announced his pending retirement after 22 years between the sticks. His last appearance in the Markets Field saw yet another clean- sheet as St. Pats were defeated 2-0. All eyes were on Dalymount Park as Kevin’s final appearance for the club was in the Cup Final v Bohemians. Kevin certainly went out on a high as Brendan Storan scored the only goal to bring the cup back to Shannonside. Remarkably Limerick have featured in 7 FAI Cup Finals (including two replays) and Kevin was in goal for all of them. Nobody else has played in goal for a Limerick side in an FAI Cup Final. I’m sure Kevin will agree it is high time he lost that record.
An International cap, a league winners medal, 2 FAI Cup winners medals, a Dublin City Cup and a League Cup are just reward for 22 years loyal service to Limerick football.