Cuala’s Michael Fitzsimons, centre, with hurlers Chris Crummey and Eoghan O’Donnell at the launch of Subaru’s link-up with Dublin. Picture: Conor McCabe photography

MICHAEL Fitzsimons was an unlikely hero for Dublin three months ago when he put in a man of the match performance to beat Mayo in the All-Ireland final replay.
But the full-back knows that he will have to fight all over again for a starting spot in this year’s league and championship campaigns.
The Cuala man had not started a championship game for Dublin since 2014 until he was parachuted in to replace David Byrne in the much-anticipated replay.
With the O’Byrne Cup kicking off a new year, the competition for places on Jim Gavin’s panel is likely to be fiercer than ever in 2017. And, speaking at the launch of Dublin GAA’s new partnership with Subaru, Fitzsimons noted how his performance against Mayo is unlikely to give him a head start in Gavin’s mind.
“I can’t tell what Jim Gavin thinks!” he said. “There is a huge amount of competition so I am under no illusions that I am in a better position than any other year.
“Each year I go in, I want to improve myself and I hope if I do that I should be in a good position to start.”
Dublin’s win saw the Boys in Blue retain the Sam Maguire for the first time in 39 years and with talk of the treble likely to reach fever pitch come August, Fitzsimons dismissed notions of the team getting caught talking about such matters.
“Hopefully there won’t be [too much talk about it].
“I think we got very used to it last year and, to be perfectly honest, I walked off the pitch after the final not thinking about the two in a row. I think previously, in 2011, it definitely would have gotten into our heads a little.”
Many players in Fitzsimons’ position would have understandably let the constant disappointment of sitting on the bench get the better of them, but the 27-year-old showed the kind of strong mentality that Gavin’s side has become known for.
“I think I am beyond self-doubt. When I was younger, self-doubt would creep in but I think I am mature enough now not to fall down that pathway.
“[Not playing] does drive you on. You go through a range of emotions; frustration, anger but you just have to face the reality.
“Since 2013 onwards where there have been ups and downs in my season but I have learned a lot.
“Previously, if I wasn’t playing come the quarter-finals I would start trying to make drastic changes to my game during the summer, but I would start making mistakes because I was doing stuff I wasn’t doing week in week out. Now I trust in my own ability.”