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'I don't know what the future holds': Glenavon's Matthew Fitzpatrick weighing up GAA return after soccer opportunity

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Matthew Fitzpatrick has scored 10 Premiership goals for Glenavon this season

Matthew Fitzpatrick has scored 10 Premiership goals for Glenavon this season

Matthew Fitzpatrick has scored 10 Premiership goals for Glenavon this season

"It sounds stupid, but I really don't know what the future holds for me," says in-form Glenavon forward Matthew Fitzpatrick as he ponders a return to Gaelic games some day.

The 26-year-old scored his sixth goal in ten games for the Lurgan Blues during the 4-3 win over Warrenpoint on Tuesday, underlining his threat in a Glenavon shirt.

He signed for Gary Hamilton last year in only his second season in top-flight football having been first picked up by west Belfast intermediate side Belfast Celtic.

The St John's and Antrim GAA player reveals, though, that Gaelic remains his first love and he may consider a return when his terms at Mourneview Park end.

"If I had been better at football when I was younger I might have chosen it," Fitzpatrick tells Sunday Life Sport. "But I was better at Gaelic. I packed soccer in altogether for eight years until I joined Belfast Celtic.

"Why did I take it up again? I ask myself that all the time. Playing Irish League football was really attractive to me and I felt I wanted to give it a go, to test myself, and I thought, 'If I'm rubbish, so what?'

"I didn't want to get older, stop playing sport and look back and wonder.

"Thankfully I got the chance at Belfast Celtic, then Coleraine and now Glenavon. I am very grateful to get the opportunity and I love it here at Glenavon.

"I have learned a lot from Gary (Hamilton) and I'm very happy, but will I stick at the soccer or go back to Gaelic? I know it sounds stupid but I really don't know what the future holds for me.

"I will honour my contract with Glenavon, of course, but after that I just don't know. I hope to have another 10 years ahead of me but I have no idea where I will be in sport and what I will be playing.

"I have been very honest with Gary, I tell him exactly where I am, so this won't come as a shock to him."

It has been a circuitous route for the man from Ladybrook in west Belfast, who combines his role at Mourneview with a teaching job at Hazeldene School in north Belfast.

He reveals that two of his managers in association football took a chance on him while his current boss had his eye on him for a while.

"I owe (Belfast Celtic manager) Stevie McAlorum a lot. I hadn't played in eight years but he took a chance on me," he says.

"I only played about 12 games before Coleraine came knocking in September/October time, and that was a strange one too.

"Belfast Celtic beat Crumlin Star and Joe McNeill from the Star texted Oran Kearney after that game about me. Oran went to Aaron Traynor, a good friend of mine, and showed him the text, and Aaron said, 'Aye, he's a good player'.

"I thought, 'If I'm going to give soccer a go, I may as well go to one of the best teams', and Coleraine were second in the League at the time.

"Oran did give me a chance, but I was inexperienced and a risk to a team challenging for honours, and from my point of view I needed to play regularly so I could learn and improve.

"It wasn't working out so we parted ways amicably last summer, and my back-up plan was to go back to the Gaelic until Gary rang me.

"He had asked me to sign before I went to Coleraine, so when I answered the phone to him this time, the first thing I said was, 'Go ahead Gary, say I told you so!'

"He just laughed, signed me and it has been a great experience. I've learned so much in a short space of time."


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