Priest applauds Davy Fitzgerald's honesty at Limerick IT seminar
A priest has applauded Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald for highlighting the scourge of bullying in society, after the All-Ireland winning boss revealed yesterday that he had been severely bullied in school.
Mr Fitzgerald told students at a mental and physical health awareness seminar, that sport had saved him after he had became "low" when he was the victim of a sustained campaign of bullying while attending secondary school in Ennis, Co Clare.
He encouraged young people to have dreams and, if possible, to get involved in sport. He said sport would help "sharpen" their minds, boost their communication skills, and help them "focus" on leading a happy life.
Today, Rector of the Redemptorists Order in Limerick, Fr Adrian Egan praised Mr Fitzgerald for helping to bring the problem of bullying further out into the public arena.
He told local radio station Limerick's Live 95FM that high-profile personalities are in a position to break taboos about sensitive subjects.
"Because people, who are successful, especially in sport these days, (which) attracts a lot of attention, they become a role model (for young people). And when somebody breaks taboos on anything -- especially somebody that is well-known and respected -- about anything that people might have been anxious to speak (publicly) about in the past -- it's always good," Fr Egan said.
"It allows other people the freedom to open up and share their experiences as well, which they might otherwise not be able to do. So, somebody like Davy Fitz talking about been bullied -- and others who've done it as well -- absolutely, it's very important," Fr Egan added.
Mr Fitzgerald also warned the students about the pitfalls of alcohol and drugs.
"You don't have to follow (other) lads into drinking, and other stuff -- because, trust me -- that only leads you down to a road of unhappiness. I'm certain on that," he said.
"I drank once or twice at fifteen, just to try and fit in with one of the boys. And then I copped on, and I said to myself: 'I'm not doing that anymore'."
The former three-time All Star Clare goalkeeper added: "We have to do stuff that we love. But that doesn't mean it entails drink or drugs or any of that rubbish. When you get older, trust me, I keep saying to the (Clare hurlers), that I would give anything to go back and play. I don't want to be managing, I don't want to be managing but my time is gone."
He also revealed when he became Clare hurling manager in 2011, he asked the panel to stay away from drink and drugs so they would achieve success on both the playing field and in their lives.
"We brought in a code of discipline. From the mid-2000s, in Clare, my feeling was that Clare was a social team. I know some of them were even taking harder stuff than drink. I couldn't understand this. To me I play to win, and if you are doing stuff like that, you're wasting your time."
He said after a mammoth meeting with the panel they agreed to stay away from alcohol and other stimulants.
"I questioned them (hurling panel) and I said do we really need alcohol and do you need to take substances that will make you feel better. We teased it out. We decided we were going to stand up and draw a line under it and say 'No'. We decided we were going to come to training and enjoy ourselves and were going to communicate with each other. We want to enjoy what we do."
After his comments sparked a debate today over whether drugs was a problem among GAA players, Mr Fitzgerald told RTE Sport he did not realise his speech to students was been recorded by the media. Members of the media were invited to the seminar and placed recording devices in front of Mr Fitzgerald before he began speaking to students.