Sunday 22 September 2019

How Clare star Peter Duggan refuses to let dyslexia slow him down and inspires others

Raising the Banner: Clare star Peter Duggan is keen to make more strides this year. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Raising the Banner: Clare star Peter Duggan is keen to make more strides this year. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Spending a few minutes with Peter Duggan quickly illustrates that the Clare hurling star is as defiant off the pitch as he is on it with no barrier too high that the towering attacker can't scale over.

A frustrated Duggan flirted with calling it a day before last season with the Banner - which ended with him landing a first All-Star award - but ongoing battles with dyslexia taught him to dig the heels in and never take no for an answer.

Duggan admits he was never a school lover growing up in Clooney and it was only when a battery of tests were undertaken with his teacher Louise Fitzsimons that he was diagnosed with the learning difficulty.

He switched to Ennis National School where he was surrounded by fewer students and could get specialist attention and both schools recently surprised him by honouring his All-Star achievement. A book dedicated to his hurling career was presented to him in Clooney National School while he was asked to return to his reading class in Ennis, where Irish singer-songwriter Gavin James had addressed students the week before.

Duggan found it humbling and was knocked for six when his former teacher Fiona de Buitléir sent him a text message charting a child's progress since his visit and it left him in no need for any motivation to repeat his heroics with Clare in 2019.

"I went into the reading class and I was telling them that I didn't care too much about school back in the day but I regret it because school is everything," Duggan said at Bodibro's 2019 Sportswear launch.

"I actually got a text message then off my old teacher about a child in the class that wouldn't have been great in school but she said that 'over the last three weeks since you've been in, if you'd seen the difference of him'.

"It's little things like that that make you really enjoy it.

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"It'd make you want to drive on and do it again, get the All-Star again so you can be brought back into the schools and have a different story for them next year."

Kerry legend Kieran Donaghy is another sportsperson to chart his struggle with dyslexia and Duggan has always found that he needs to concentrate a little harder than most, but it has never deterred him.

"It takes you a little bit longer to read a sentence or you get confused when it comes to maths but if you put your mind to it, you'll still get it, there's no fear of that. There's nothing stopping you," the 25-year-old said.

"It's literally just about going through the hardship. If I want to win another All-Star this year, I have to work as hard as I can to get to that point, same as you want to get a master's and you're dyslexic, you just have to work like an absolute dog and you'll get there, there's no fear of that.

"Back in the day there would have been talk that, 'You can't, sure you're dyslexic', sure that's the biggest load of rubbish you will ever hear. There's nothing that a dyslexic person can't do that a normal person can't do."

The Banner ace is completing a business and sports master's in LIT and hopes to start his own landscaping company but, for now, his main focus is on winning silverware under Gerry O'Connor and Donal Moloney.

Last year's agonising All-Ireland semi-final replay defeat to Galway is still a sore point and with Duggan's growing profile comes a responsibility to nurture younger players like Diarmuid Ryan and Rory Hayes which he thrives upon.

He may not be a veteran in years but his mentality highlights a player whose sole goal is to succeed in saffron and blue, even if that means that he might not always be on the pitch.

"My main focus this year is just going to be on myself and I'll just try and hurl as best I can for Clare and if it doesn't work out I'll be just as happy to see someone else coming in and doing the job that I couldn't do.

"And it wouldn't bother me in the slightest because my main concern would be to get another All-Ireland with Clare, and being honest it wouldn't bother me too much if I was starting or not starting, because I just know how much it means for everyone to get."

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