Garrett Fitzgerald, the straight-talking Munster-to-the-core rugby man, who oversaw the province’s greatest days as coach and CEO, has passed away. He was 65.
The driving force behind Munster’s emergence as a European powerhouse had been battling an illness for some time, but in the same pragmatic and even-handed way he dealt with most things.
Garrett Fitzgerald was the longest-serving CEO in Irish rugby. There was no manual or road map when he arrived behind the CEO’s desk for the first time in 1999. But he had already been a player and coach at club, schools and under age and had masterminded the province’s shock win over Bob Dwyer’s touring Wallabies at Musgrave Park in 1992.
Though many may have been labelled ‘Mr Munster’ in recent decades, he lived and breathed it every day. He had the facility to handle complex situations pertaining to business, contracts, and communication is a remarkably phlegmatic way. He only retired as CEO in June 2019.
The province issued a late Friday statement expressing “great sadness” at his death and expressing deepest sympathies to his wife Áine, children Megan, Jamie and Michael, and the extended O’Donnell-Fitzgerald family.
“Garrett spearheaded the province’s rise in the professional era overseeing a 20-year period that produced the greatest days for the province, with successes on and off the field.
“Recent deserving accolades saw the former Munster chief awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Limerick, presented with the Richard Harris Patron’s award, and honoured by the Federation of Irish Sport for his outstanding contribution to sport.
Added Gerry O’Shea, Chairman of the Munster Rugby Board, said: “With a hands-on approach, Garrett was the driving force behind Munster Rugby’s successful transition into the professional era, transforming the province into a club that is held in such high regard across the rugby landscape.
“Showing great humility, Garrett always ensured it was never about him, and it was always about the people of Munster Rugby.
“Playing a leading role in shaping the province’s story through his hard work and committed service over the past twenty years he leaves a lasting legacy that we will forever be grateful for.”
The making of Munster
In November, Garrett sat down with Tony Leen to chat through his life and times in rugby. You can listen to the two-part interview below.