Wednesday 13 December 2017

Davy Fitz reveals: I rooted out drug problem in Clare hurling

David Raleigh

ALL-IRELAND winning Clare hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald has revealed for the first time how Clare hurlers were taking drugs.

But he said he and his backroom team rooted out the problem when he became manager in 2011.

The revelations about drug taking in the amateur sport came as Mr Fitzgerald spoke about how a small minority of players were drinking alcohol and taking drugs when he became manager of the team.

As a result, a code of discipline was introduced.

Addressing hundreds of students at a mental and physical health seminar in Limerick Institute of Technology, he said: "From the mid-2000s, in Clare, my feeling was that Clare was a social team," he said.

"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."

Clare's All-Ireland winning hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald
Clare's All-Ireland winning hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald
Davy Fitzgerald took over the Clare hurling team in 2011 and quickly tackled the problems. Picture: Sportsfile

He said he and the team rooted out the problem during a three-hour meeting after he became manager.

"I questioned them 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 spent three hours out in Bunratty teasing 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."

He told the students that exercise "sharpens the mind" and alcohol sends you "down a road of unhappiness".

However, he also told the students that sport could deliver deep lows as well as massive highs.

He described how he collapsed with grief when his team Waterford were thrashed by Kilkenny in the 2008 All-Ireland hurling final.

"There are 85,000 people there. I'm on the sideline. We're getting beaten 30 points by Kilkenny, absolutely hammering us. You can't hide any place.

"I'll never forget coming up to the dressing room afterwards, the boys were gone.

"I actually fell to my knees. My dad and my best friend Liam were there. "I just fell down. I bawled out crying. I was in a bad way after it. I couldn't believe, that, one minute I was up so high and the next minute I was down."

He also revealed how he was assaulted by Waterford supporters when the team came off the back of another severe beating at the hands of Tipperary in 2011.

Reiterating his advice to those gathered before him to have dreams and goals and hobbies "and fun" he added: "I'll give you an example of a dream I had, to win the long puck competition in Ireland.

"It took me nine years to win it. I used to come home every year and my dad would say to me, 'Well, how'd you get on', and I'd say, 'I didn't get there'.

"I remember that, after the sixth year he said, 'Well, are you ever going to do it?', and I said: 'I'll get there, I'll get there.'"

"After the ninth year when I did it – Jesus . . . what a feeling!

"The message I'm trying to give to you is, it pays to be persistent.

"It's like my dream with Clare last year. Everyone said for four or five years that Kilkenny would be unbeatable.

"In my head, I kept saying, and in every interview I did, 'their time is coming to an end. We will get there'." He also opened up about how he was severely bullied when he was a child and how he would "absolutely dread" getting the bus to school where he was targeted by the bullies. Mr Fitzgerald encouraged the students to have dreams and goals and to avoid the pitfalls of alcohol and drugs.

Irish Independent

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