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Dungannon Swifts legend Fitzpatrick determined to end career on a high

By Billy Weir

With everything else going on this weekend, it would be easy to overlook Dungannon Swifts' trip to Ards but for one player at least it is a match that will live long in the memory.

For tomorrow will bring the curtain down on a 25-year chapter of service to the Tyrone club for Terry Fitzpatrick.

The man known as Choka is hanging his boots up after the match, having first played for the club at Under-12 level.

Now 36, Fitzpatrick, who made his debut back in 2003, is calling it a day but is going out on a high in what has been a landmark season for the Swifts as they landed their first senior trophy in the shape of the League Cup.

"Looking back on it, we've won the League Cup this year and I thought it's the right time for me to call it a day," he said.

"I'm retiring completely. Dungannon will always be my first love in football, I don't want to take a step down and play for somebody else.

"We made history this year by winning the League Cup and I don't think I'll ever get that feeling again as a player, so it's definitely the right time. All good things come to an end."

However, we may not have seen the last of the no-nonsense defender just yet as he would love to stay in the game in some capacity and with that in mind is taking his Uefa coaching badges this summer.

"I am starting my badges in May so I'm hoping to stay involved," he added. "I could have probably stepped down to a lower league and played and got my Saturday in that way but I want to stay on with Dungannon Swifts, start my coaching and see where it takes me."

It is fitting that he wants to give something back to a club that has been part of his life for a quarter of a century and he remembers it like it was yesterday.

"I started with Dungannon Swifts Under-12s so it wasn't yesterday!" he joked. "Joe McAree and Dixie Robinson brought me through and the time has flown in so I've enjoyed myself.

"It has been a pleasure for me to have played for Dungannon Swifts, there are no regrets and I'm retiring of my own accord, I'm not being forced to quit so to do it off my own bat is great."

He bowed out at Stangmore Park last week where he was rightly lauded but typical of the man, the win and another one this weekend is what he wants more than anything.

"Thursday was the last training session and Saturday will be the last match and Saturday past was the last home game and to win 4-2 was super and hopefully we can go out this Saturday with a bigger bang," he said.

"There are no easy games in the Irish League. There's no one there who you would say you are going to beat at the weekend, you can't say that. It's that tight at the bottom and everyone is taking points off everybody and then you look at how tight it is at the top. It's great and it's brilliant for the fans."

And he is confident with manager Rodney McAree committing his future, that things will continue to soar for the Swifts.

"When I look and see young lads coming through, two played the other night, Rodney is pushing things in the right direction, not just the first team but the whole set-up," he concluded.

Indeed and who knows, he may have a bit of help on the coaching front in the not too distant future.

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