Friday 21 July 2017

No conscience. No respect for others. No ability to love - How Galway hurler Davy Glennon bounced back from the brink

Davy Glennon in action against Waterford this year and (right) dejected after last year's Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny
Davy Glennon in action against Waterford this year and (right) dejected after last year's Leinster final defeat to Kilkenny
Ger Keville

Ger Keville

Davy Glennon didn’t care that he gambled the few quid he had in his pocket rather than buy his kid brother a birthday present. It didn’t matter that he was drifting away from all of his close friends. And hiding in a bookie’s toilet because his mother came storming in to try and get him out of the place seemed like a normal part of life at the time.

He had no conscience. No respect for others. No ability to love.

Everyone has a breaking point and Glennon’s came on July 5, 2015, when Galway were beaten by Kilkenny in the Leinster hurling final. He lasted just 24 minutes before he was taken off. Twenty-four minutes where he “just wasn’t right”.

Following the defeat, Glennon was pictured bowed on one knee with his left hand covering his mouth, staring into space. It was an image that could easily have been of any one of the Galway players that day as they came to terms with another defeat against the mighty Cats.

But for Glennon, it wasn’t so much a Leinster final loss that had engulfed him with sorrow and emptiness. He had reached breaking point and four days later he was checked into Cuan Mhuire in Athenry with a crippling, chronic gambling addiction.

A 12-week programme where he was isolated from the outside world was just the beginning. It’s a little over a year since Glennon completed the “easy part”.

He hasn’t had a bet since and while acutely aware that every day is a battle, he is on the road to redemption. He is back in the maroon of Galway and playing some fine hurling since he crossed the white line for his second coming against Westmeath in the Walsh Cup.

Living with a clear conscience and a new-found respect for himself and others brings its own challenges, however.

“I had an uncle who passed away three weeks ago and I was just thinking to myself – I hadn’t seen that man in about 10 or 12 years,” Glennon tells Independent.ie.

“I hadn’t seen any of my uncles on my mother’s side and I suppose when he got sick, he had cancer and got sick very quick, I had no relationship with my family on that side of things. I didn’t want to go near them because I was gambling.

“When he passed away I thought to myself ‘I didn’t know that man as well as I should have because of my gambling and what he did to me'.

“I had no respect for people like that. It is a regret because I have a conscience now. That is one man I didn’t know because of my gambling.”

Regret and negativity also consumed Glennon during his three months in Cuan Mhuire. His first nights were spent in a dorm with seven other patients suffering from all kinds of addiction including alcoholism. He was a world away from the free green space of a hurling pitch, put on two stone and his Galway career looked all but over.

But Glennon came out of Cuan Mhuire in a far better place than when he went in.

“There was only so much I could do (in Cuan Mhuire) so I put on weight. But when I came out I was in a better place and it made it easier to get back into shape. The players and managers came in to see me. I knew they had hope in me and I wanted to give something back.

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Galway manager Micheál Donoghue. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

“I got the call on New Year’s Day from (Galway manager) Micheál Donoghue (above). They had trust in me and eased me back into it. My first game was in the Walsh Cup against Westmeath. I was getting back into it, hurled well and grew in confidence.

 “It was an emotional day (against Westmeath). When I was in treatment I thought my day had gone. All the negative thinking comes into your head. It was emotional leaving that dressing room and going out on the pitch.

“I played right up to the Leinster final and got injured between the Leinster final and our All Ireland quarter-final with Clare with a calf injury.

“It took an ease off what I was doing. In 2015 when I played in the Leinster final, I was taken off after 24 minutes when I suffered from gambling. Four days later I went into Cuan Mhuire.

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Davy Glennon on his return to Galway in action against Shane Power, Westmeath
Davy Glennon on his return to Galway in action against Shane Power, Westmeath

“Since I have come out it is hard. The temptations are there. The temptation is always there. The bright lights of the bookie shop are always there. More and more bookies are coming into town and you are on your own out there and it is you against every bookie in the country. It’s how to keep yourself away from it. Whether you go for a coffee and communication is key.”

Glennon’s plight was first highlighted in a compelling interview with the Examiner’s John Fogarty earlier this year under the headline: ‘I wasn’t trying to kill myself, but I wanted to kill the life I was living.’

At his lowest ebb in 2013, Glennon took off in his car wondering what the “easiest way out was” and only for a text from his little brother, he may not be here to tell the tale. 

“It definitely would have happened. I was at breaking point, I was (having) a nervous breakdown. I was so stressed, I didn’t know where to look or what to do. Financially, I was crippled.

“When you are hurling with Galway and you are kind of in the limelight, at home in your local parish you are somebody that people can look up to and you want to keep that impression. Pride got in the way. How could I tell people I was addicted to gambling?

“It came to a stage that I knew that I needed to cry out for help which was a 25% chance or there was a 75% chance I was going to do something tragic in that I was going to end my life. The first step is the hardest.

“They treated me for depression and gambling. You are literally fried from everything, your conscience is gone. They are treating you how to respect, how to love, all that kind of thing again. I had no conscience. I was a compulsive liar, I was a compulsive gambler.

“The trust with my family was gone. My parents were going to counselling when I was gambling because they were not able to deal with..what are we going to do today? What are we going to do tomorrow? What financial difficulty is he going to get himself or us into? It was not just crippling me, it was crippling my family.

“If I do go back, I am finished because I was a chronic compulsive gambler. If you go back a second time, I know myself if I go back a second time I am going to do so much destruction to myself that life will me finished for me. That is the reality of it.”

The last 12 months have been, by his own admission, a constant battle but for the first time since his teens, positivity and hope are back in his life.

He can now pick up a hurl and go down to the local pitch with his brother  for a puc around without being overwhelmed by the thoughts of having to make up a lie and escape to the bookies with whatever cash he had rummaged together.

He can now pick up the phone and call his mate Joe Canning for a chat or go for a coffee. No more need to dodge mates. No more need to dodge life. 

Brian Gavin throws the ball in to start the second half between David Burke, left, and Davy Glennon of Galway and Conor Cleary, left, and David Reidy of Clare during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship quarter final match between Clare and Galway
Brian Gavin throws the ball in to start the second half between David Burke, left, and Davy Glennon of Galway and Conor Cleary, left, and David Reidy of Clare during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship quarter final match between Clare and Galway

The compulsive liar and degenerate gambler has been replaced by the focused Davy Glennon.

Most days are spent in the 37 degrees gym in Loughrea, a place that provides the physical support while he attends Cuan Mhuire every two weeks for a talk to keep his focus on the positive things in life. He now has clarity on where his life is going and where once his thoughts were on his next bet, he is now striving for a future with a career in counselling very much on his radar.

Other goals? Well, there is the small matter of an All Ireland title, something Glennon feels could be closer than ever next season.

“There is a good feeling out there. We were one point off Tipperary this year with Joe (Canning) off injured before half-time and Adrian Touhy our wing back. Two injured at the wrong time. We are confident going into next year’s championship that we have something to offer.

“With Waterford against Kilkenny there were such narrow margins between the teams, it could easily have been a Waterford v Galway final this year.

 “Tipp brought intensity to the All Ireland final. When you look at an inside forward line like Tipperary scoring more than Kilkenny scored in an All Ireland final – they scored 2-20 I think it was – there is hope out there.

“The supply of ball and the energy that Tipperary brought and the hurling they brought. Maybe going forward and attacking is the way to win an All Ireland compared to defensive system that teams brought in the past.”

Davy Glennon is back fighting fit and doing what he does best on the pitch. In many respects, his career is just starting and that can only be a good thing for Galway.

* Cuan Mhuire will host a charity auction tonight with 40 signed GAA and soccer jerseys to give away.

Included in the prizes is a signed Seamus Coleman Ireland jersey, a signed jersey from Tipperary All Ireland man of the match Seamus Callanan and a signed jersey from Connacht;s successful Pro12 winning team last year.

For more details, see website here and Facebook here

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