Whenever and wherever GAA aficionados meet in Killarney and throughout Ireland, to recall the contributions of legends of Cumann Luthchleas Gael they’ll talk of one of Ireland’s greatest Gaels,Dick Fitzgerald or Dickeen as he was affectionately known. Winner of 5 All Ireland medals in 1903,1904,1909,1913 and1914, he was the winning Kerry captain in 1913 and in 1914.
He was an outstanding player and captain with Dr Crokes, in time he became it's chairman and president. He was the Kerry representative on the Munster and Central Councils. In 1914 he published the first book on his lifelong passion, "How to play Gaelic Football". This was an amazing achievement that the Kerry captain was able to get this printed at the start of World War One. There are just a few copies of this collectors' item still treasured by those fortunate enough to have the book in their possession. Although the game of football has changed over the years ,much of Dickeen’s book is still relevant today.
1884 was an historic year for our native sport. The GAA was founded in Hayes’ hotel, Thurles and Dick Fitzgerald was born in College Street, Killarney. Alas his life was a short one as he died prematurely on the 26th of September 1930, the Friday before the All Ireland football final. Into those 45 years he packed a host of remarkable achievements with club, county, province and country. He was a very stylish centre forward with Dr Crokes where he perfected his speciality, the screw kick. Dr Eamonn O Sullivan, the Kerry trainer and fellow Croke man marvelled at the skills of Dickeen, especially his distribution of the ball, perfect hands and feet to carry that ball through the opponents defence and his unique ability to score from the corner flag with his trademark screw kick.
He was a key man on the Dr Crokes team that won its first ever Kerry SFC in 1901, when he was just 17 years old. He continued to give great service to Dr Crokes as a player. He was a born leader and he had what most clubs yearn for, the ability to pull the game out of the fire. Where Dickeen led, others followed. At county level he starred with Kerry winning 5 All Ireland medals, also captaining club and county to numerous successes.
When his playing days were over he continued to make a memorable contribution at club level and also to the GAA in general. He refereed many matches and was a founding member of the East Kerry Board. In 1916 he was elected to the Central Council, the year of the famous Rising, following which he was interned in Frongach in Wales. He became very friendly with Michael Collins and provided The Big Fella with safe houses in Kerry after their release. He showed his leadership while he was incarcerated in Frongach organizing games for the internees. It was based on the inter county system with the Kerry internees led by Dickeen defeating Louth captained by Tom Bourke by a point in the final. After the Civil War he helped to use his GAA connections to heal the wounds of civil war and Kerry was to the fore in this respect, a fact acknowledged by Joe Joe Barrett in his book on this aspect of reconciliation.
After release from Frongach he became the Kerry representative on the Central Council, a post he held up to the time of his death in 1930.He was a Kerry selector in 1918, refereed two semi-finals and was delegate to Congress. At the time of his death he was a member of the Kerry Selection Committee, the Munster Council and the Central Council of the GAA , a member of Killarney UDC and president of the N.A.C.A.I, which he founded in 1926.
Kerry won the 1929 All Ireland,the first of the ’29-32 four in a row, but the GAA world was numbed on the Friday before the 1930 All Ireland final, when news broke that Dick Fitzgerald died suddenly. It was like waking up in the morning and looking out the window to discover that Carrantuohill had disappeared. Such was the impact Dikeen had made on the sporting and cultural life of his home town, club and country, an icon for all that he stood for.