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Davy's carrot was better than any drug

In the movie Limitless, the hero – played by Bradley Cooper – comes across a pill that will allow him to reach the maximum of his potential.

Maybe Bradley should have consulted Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald first – if he wanted to achieve his full potential without a drink, drug or synthetic pill.

Davy nailed it this week when speaking to more than 400 students at Limerick Institute of Technology. The Clareman recounted how he had taken over a young Clare team that he felt lacked focus.


His first task was to highlight one barrier to their potential: "From the mid-2000s in Clare my feeling was that Clare was a social team."

The outspoken former Clare hurler not only named the elephant in the room, he also went on to knock it out the door with a belt of his hurl.

One of the Clare team's biggest hurdles wasn't Kilkenny or a revitalised Dublin team. The enemy was within – the drinking culture of an element in the Clare dressing room. And more. "I know some of them were even taking harder stuff than drink," he said.

Now he has given all of us a lead in tackling the alcohol and drug myth and the key is in how he did it.

Fitz didn't deliver big sermons or demonise drink. Instead he offered a lovely juicy carrot – the chance to be your best.

When he took over he met the players in the Bunratty Castle Hotel. The meeting lasted for three hours.

Davy asked them a very simple question: "Do you really need alcohol and do you need to take substances to make you feel better?"

The response was good: "We decided we were going to come to training and enjoy ourselves and were going to communicate with each other."

And, crucially, did the players' behaviour change ? They drank twice in nine months and they took the Liam McCarthy Cup home to the Banner county. Davy told how after games they had great craic on the team bus – without having to take drink.

You see Davy knew it wasn't enough just to ban or blame something. You have to be able to replace it with something more attractive.


And that's his great lesson for all of us – government, teachers, counsellors, parents and anyone who works with young people.

Years ago when I was doing my therapy training my supervisor taught me a similar lesson.

He pointed out that if someone thinks they are Napoleon, before you tell them they are not, you better have something to replace Napoleon in their heads.

Davy offered the hurlers the prize of being the best they could be, the prize of a real shot at an all-Ireland.

In Ireland we were culturally indoctrinated to believe that you cannot enjoy yourself on a night out unless you are on the piss, right?

In a week when we heard of the awful link between alcohol and the horrific figures for domestic violence, isn't it time we took a leaf out of Davy's book then?

His courage was later backed up by a very interesting comment from Tony Blair's former advisor Alastair Campbell.

This week Campbell said that our rugby World Cup bid would not be affected by an alcohol sponsorship ban. Just as Davy did with his players, we need to come up with an alternative, this time to alcohol sponsorship. Given the massive TV audiences for a World Cup I'd argue that won't be a problem, if we're brave enough to make the move.

When it comes to binning the bottle is feidir linn!