Connacht fullback Stephen Fitzgerald has been forced into retirement at the age of 25 due to injury.
Former Ardscoil Ris student and Shannon RFC star Fitzgerald has had three knee operations since January 2020 when he got injured against Leinster in the PRO14. It was unfortunately confirmed today that he has failed to make a full recovery and will therefore not being renewing his contract with Andy Friend’s side this Summer.
Fitzgerald played seven times for Munster before he joined Connacht in the Summer of 2019. He went on to make 18 appearences for the western province and scored on two occasions. He also represented the Ireland U20s eight times, scoring five tries.
“I’m devastated and heartbroken to be finishing my career at the end of the season,” said Limerick man Fitzgerald.
“The last two years have been extremely tough with three operations on my knee and unfortunately this is a battle that I’m going to lose.
“The one thing I’m massively proud of and gives me peace of mind moving forward is knowing I have worked the hardest I ever have in my life trying to get back. I’ve been lucky to have the amazing medical staff in Connacht looking after me, who all went above and beyond anything I ever expected. They always had my best interests at heart and I’ll always be grateful for their efforts.
“Growing up I dreamed of playing rugby at the highest level. I’ve been lucky to experience this with both Munster and Connacht. I’m extremely grateful to all my coaches and teammates for the amazing memories from my school days with Ard Scoil, with my club Shannon, to representing my country underage and finally to playing for both Munster and Connacht.
“The thrill I got from playing in front of family, friends and fans in a packed Thomond Park or The Sportsground is like nothing I’ve experienced before. I want to thank all the fans who have supported me and welcomed me with open arms along the way. Being fortunate enough to play for you and have your support is something that will always make me proud.
“Lastly, I just want to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am today. I’m extremely lucky to have amazing friends and family who have supported me. My family and girlfriend have been there for me more than they will ever realise and I just hope I’ve made them proud of what I’ve done.
“I look forward to being a fan and enjoying getting back in the stands with ye all soon.”