Belfast Telegraph

My wife gave my shock Dungannon Swifts return the all clear: Terry Fitzpatrick

Dream team: Terry Fitzpatrick has admitted that he asked wife Rosanne’s permission when Dungannon Swifts sent out an SOS
Dream team: Terry Fitzpatrick has admitted that he asked wife Rosanne’s permission when Dungannon Swifts sent out an SOS
Dream team: Terry Fitzpatrick has admitted that he asked wife Rosanne’s permission when Dungannon Swifts sent out an SOS
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Terry Fitzpatrick has revealed that he sought his wife's permission before making a surprise return to Irish League football at the age of 37.

The midfielder was back in the Dungannon Swifts team at the weekend after answering an SOS from his hometown club.

It was his first league appearance in almost 20 months, having announced his retirement at the end of the 2017-18 season.

He played 83 minutes of Saturday's 3-1 win over Warrenpoint, which ended a 10-game losing run.

Fitzpatrick has been managing Dungannon's Under-18 side.

But a call from first-team manager Kris Lindsay, whose side were really struggling and in the grip of an injury crisis, led to the surprise comeback.

Before agreeing, though, Fitzpatrick needed the approval of his wife, Rosanne.

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He said: "Being manager of the Under-18s, I am in contact with Kris and he just happened to text me two weeks ago.

"I had played a few games for the Under-20s and really enjoyed it.

"I'd played in the Bob Radcliffe Cup, which was really good - playing with young players that I'm coaching.

"Kris sent me a text, then rang me, and said he would like me back involved. I asked in what context because, with working with the Under-18s, I am out three days a week. He said he wanted me back playing.

"If it was up to me, I'd have jumped at the chance, but I had to talk to my wife and she gave me the all clear to go.

"Obviously with the way results have gone, I was coming in to help the team and help the squad, and it's great to be back involved."

In two decades with Dungannon, Fitzpatrick helped the club rise from the B Division to an established Premiership side.

He was part of the squad that won promotion to the top division in 2003.

Fitzpatrick also played in the 2007 Irish Cup final, the all-Ireland Setanta Cup and the Uefa Cup.

But his highlight came in 2018, when he was part of the squad that won the League Cup - the Swifts' first major trophy.

They beat Ballymena 3-1 in the final, and Fitzpatrick lifted the trophy alongside then captain Ryan Harpur.

His final appearance came in a 4-3 win at Ards weeks later, and he scored the winner with a last-minute penalty in the season's concluding game.

Fitzpatrick said: "When I first retired, I thought it was time to do so. Looking back, I maybe retired for the wrong reasons. At the same time, we had won a trophy and young lads were coming through.

"But being back involved is nice, and to be back on Saturday and get our first win in a while is even better.

"I've told Kris I am okay to do it short-term. Last week I was out from Monday to Saturday.

"I just don't think it would be right on the family to keep doing that. I really do enjoy the Under-18s, so we will have to see what happens."

After a promising start to the season, Dungannon had failed to take a point since beating Carrick Rangers on September 28.

However, a 3-1 victory over Warrenpoint, with Mark Patton scoring twice, has eased relegation worries.

Fitzpatrick admits it is vital they stay in the top division.

He said: "That win was absolutely massive for the club because, with coaching the Under-18s and Under-20s, and even the Under-16s, I can see what is coming through the youth set-up.

"There are a lot of exciting young players coming through, and for me and any of the coaches it is vital that Dungannon stay in the Premiership.

"It was a big pressured game, but for me I thought we fully deserved the win.

"It wasn't pretty at times but at the end of the day it was three points, and three points we fully deserved."

Fitzpatrick, who is father to Bill and Scarlett, admits family life may mean it is a brief return to first-team football.

"Dungannon, as we all know, is a very big part of my life," he said. "If I feel I can help them out in any way, shape or form, I will do so.

"Again, I can't see me being fit to do both coaching and playing for too long, because it is five or six days a week.

"Some full-time footballers might not be out for five or six days a week, especially with two young children.

"I think I will have to assess things."

Fitzpatrick came off with seven minutes to go, getting an appreciative hug from his manager as he left the pitch.

He added: "I felt tired towards the end. I went over 10 minutes from the end and said to Kris, 'I'm heavy-legged'.

"He asked me to give him a couple more minutes.

"The next two balls I missed - my legs wouldn't even kick the balls - so I said to him to take me off.

"I have played two Under-20s games recently, and have trained with the first team, but it's a massive step up in terms of fitness and energy.

"It did tire me out, if I'm honest - but I enjoyed it all the same."

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