Saturday 17 August 2019

'Dream big is my motto and that's what I told them' - Late Late Toy Show star Michael O'Brien on his motivational speech for Wexford hurlers

Michael's journey to delivering a speech to his idol Davy Fitzgerald and the hurlers is charted in new RTE documentary

Michael and Davy chat before the speech
Michael and Davy chat before the speech
Michael O'Brien on the Late Late Toy Show
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

One young man made quite an impression during his appearance on RTE's Late Late Toy Show in December and, as a result, he is now the subject of his very own documentary.

Michael O’Brien (11) from Killarney, Co Kerry, who is visually impaired, impressed an audience of 1.5m viewers when he reviewed braille books on the show and was surprised by a visit from his sporting hero Davy Fitzgerald.

The manager of the Wexford senior hurling team then invited Michael to give a motivational pre-match talk to the team ahead of one of their big games against Tipperary in the league earlier this year.

The youngster's journey to that inspirational moment is captured in a heartwarming new RTE documentary, When Michael Met Davy.

"I never had a clue," says Michael of the Toy Show surprise of meeting his hero.  "I was pretty shocked on the night, very, very shocked.  I did have a great chat with Davy in the green room, maybe for 15 or 20 minutes, about the GAA."

Michael became something of a local celebrity following his appearance on the small screen.

Michael O'Brien with Davy Fitzgerald on the Late Late Toy Show. PIC: RTE
Michael O'Brien with Davy Fitzgerald on the Late Late Toy Show. PIC: RTE

"It was pretty good getting all this attention," he says. "I never felt aything like that in my life, apart obviously from my family.  But not from that many people."

Rising to the challenge of writing a speech for the hurlers was not an easy task, and Michael enlisted the help of his school principal.

Michael & Davy in dressing room corridor
Michael & Davy in dressing room corridor

"I had to put a lot of work into it," he says.  "The main message for them would have been to dream big.  That was my motto and it still is my motto and that's the motto I gave to them."

The speech, delivered at the pitchside in February ahead of Wexford's clash against Tipperary, worked some magic as Wexford emerged triumphant.

Michael and Davy on Innovate Wexford Park pitch
Michael and Davy on Innovate Wexford Park pitch

"I suppose they listened and they took it all in and understood and won the match.  They're playing Tipperary again this Sunday [in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final] and I really hope they win," says Michael.

His favourite moment from the entire experience was when Wexford scored the winning point against Tipp in that match.

Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald with special guest Michael O'Brien from Killarney, Co Kerry, who met Davy on the Late Late Toy Show last Christmas
Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald with special guest Michael O'Brien from Killarney, Co Kerry, who met Davy on the Late Late Toy Show last Christmas

Speaking in July, Davy referenced Michael as a major inspiration for the team.

Michael and his mum Noreen at a Kerry game
Michael and his mum Noreen at a Kerry game

'I'd like to think the lads are humble. We do bring a lot of people in around us that aren't as fortunate. You take young Michael from Kerry that came into us this year - if you'd seen the speech he gave before the Tipp game," he said.

"All the boys thought I put him up to it, I didn't say a word to him. He actually told them it's about time they start living their dream. This is a young guy that was blind and it registered big time with the lads."

While Davy has a reputation for speaking his mind when it comes to matches, Michael says you see "a very different side to Davy off the field".

"I'll tell you why, when Davy gets passionate he changes," he explains.

Michael is as fervent a fan as ever and is excited and nervous about the upcoming semi-final clash at Croke Park.

"I don't think it'll be an easy one," he says. "Liam Sheedy and his men are going out to win and Davy and the men are going out to win and hopefully we come out the better side.  But I don't think it'll be easy."

When Michael Met Davy airs on RTE One on Monday August 5th at 6.30pm.

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