PAIDÍ Fitzpatrick has been a standout defender for his club this season and the Sixmilebridge captain has certainly been leading by example in their run to another final, which will be his fourth in the club colours.

This is his first year wearing the armband, although he has previously been a vice-captain under defensive colleague Caimin Morey. Is Paidí a vocal captain?

“The lads might tell you I am but I don’t really think so,” he says smiling. “There are plenty of leaders in the squad and as a group we have lots of experience there, so I don’t think I have to do too much. I might say something now and again, but really I think you have to lead by example on the field, in matches and training, maybe in terms of attitude and hopefully performance,” Paidí says.

The attitude and performances have been spot on with the Bridge this season and it needed to be, such was the quality of opposition they have met in reaching this final.

“Yeah, it’s been some run,” agrees Paidí. “We’ve had some great games, we’ve had to perform at our best on every occasion. Clarecastle, Ballyea, Cratloe and Newmarket is some run to a final. The semi-final against Newmarket was a humdinger. We were in trouble, we were up a few points, then we got pulled back, then they were up and in the end it could have gone either way,” recounts Paidí.

“I’m hearing it was a great game to watch but it wasn’t great for the nerves playing it,” he reports.

“But that’s the way the Clare championship is now. Any team can beat each other. Throw in the few local derbies and that adds to it as well. There have been shocks throughout the year because the quality is very high at the moment, any team can beat any other team. We have been very conscious of that ahead of all our games,” he says.

Twenty four hours before the Bridge’s epic semi-final win Clooney Quin pulled off the latest shock of the year when they upset fancied Clonlara. Did Paidí pay much attention to that?

“At the time, no, we were only thinking about our own semi-final. Maybe by Sunday night or Monday we could start thinking about them. But that result wasn’t that much of a surprise because as I sad earlier, any team can catch any other team in Clare right now,” he recounts.

So what does he know of Sunday’s opponents?

“I’ve played with a few of the Clooney Quin lads, played with them in Flannans, with the county. We’ve only played once in championship, I think it was the game right after Clare won the 2013 All-Ireland final replay, but we’ve met a lot in the Clare Cup. This year we had a right battle and we only just beat them by a point at the death and were probably lucky that night.

“Yeah, it’s been some run,” agrees Paidí. “We’ve had some great games, we’ve had to perform at our best on every occasion. Clarecastle, Ballyea, Cratloe and Newmarket is some run to a final. The semi-final against Newmarket was a humdinger. We were in trouble, we were up a few points, then we got pulled back, then they were up and in the end it could have gone either way,” recounts Paidí.

“They were missing their county lads too, the same as us, but it was a right contest. It doesn’t surprise me they are in a final. They’ve been coming for a while now. So we’re under no illusions about what’s facing us,” he adds.

This Sixmilebridge team has been the most consistent in the county for a number of years now, although the ‘back to back titles’ has eluded them, something they are hoping to put right on Sunday. What does Paidí put their recent consistency down to?

“I think our unity has played a big part in that. We have trained hard, we’ve put the work in. We’re solid that way. When we’ve won we’ve celebrated as a team but when we’ve lost, we’ve stuck together too. I think if you go through the highs and lows together, as a team, it makes you stronger. That’s certainly been the case with this squad and all involved in the team, the consistency of the management is a huge help too,” he emphasises.

While he is very conscious of the honour for himself and his family to leading the side behind the Tulla Pipe band this Sunday, the game itself is where his thoughts are; “Of course it’s a very proud day for us. My father has been there, my brother has been there, I grew up wanting to emulate them. And any time you get to walk behind the Tulla Pipe Band is something you cherish because you never know when you’ll get the opportunity again.

“Being captain is a huge honour, but really, I think players just want the game to start once we arrive in Cusack Park. I’m no different. That’s what we’re focussed on,” he stresses.

Paidí used to be a superstitious hurler in the dressing before matches. These days he sticks to his pre-match routine but says that changes from year to year.

“I usually have a routine and I stick to it until we lose, then that goes out the window and I try something else. I used to like being last out of the dressing room, but then they made me captain so that had to go!” he laughs. “This year I’ve been out first, hopefully that works again on Sunday!”

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