Davy Fitzgerald says he was severely bullied as a child

Manager says some Clare senior hurlers were previously taking illicit drugs

Davy Fitzgerald, manager of the Clare senior hurling team. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Davy Fitzgerald, manager of the Clare senior hurling team. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Tue, Mar 4, 2014, 18:08

Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald has opened up about how he was severely bullied when he was a child.

The All-Ireland winning manager – who addressed hundreds of students at a mental and physical health seminar at Limerick Institute of Technology today – encouraged them to have dreams and goals and to avoid the pitfalls of alcohol and drugs.

He also revealed how some Clare hurlers were taking illicit drugs before he and his backroom team weeded out the problem when Fitzgerald became manager in 2011.

In a inspirational speech, the former Clare goalkeeper gave a remarkably frank account of how sport saved his life when he was the victim of bullies while he attended secondary school in Clare.

“At an early age I had a dream. I believe you should have dreams and you should have goals, no matter what your story is. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sport or if it’s a profession that you want. My dream from about four or five years of age was to play in goal for Clare. I didn’t care about anything else. That was my focus. That was my goal. It was one of the biggest things I’ve ever had in my life; having that goal in front of me and having that belief that I wanted to do something,” the former three-time GAA All Star told students.

“I got bullied badly when I was in secondary school. It was probably the toughest time in my life. I used to dread getting up in the mornings and going out on the bus, absolutely dread it. I used to sit on the second seat from the front nearly all the time. There was seven or eight guys who used to be laughing at me.

“They’d hit me on the back of the head. They would pull my hair. They put egg on my head. They would pull me back to the back seat – the bus driver wouldn’t know anything about it – they’d open my shirt and start painting on my body. I got my shoes thrown out the bus window. I felt absolutely so low and I tried to figure out what this was all about.

“I went home with a black eye and bruised ribs. I never told my mam or dad anything. To this day, I don’t understand bullying. I cannot understand how people are so insensitive. I cannot understand how you would single someone out and do that. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Addressing anyone involved in bullying, the manager – who last year brought Clare to All-Ireland victory after a 16-year gap – said: “It’s something I cannot tolerate. If you ever have done something like that, just look within yourself and say: ‘Listen, I’m not going there again and I’m not going to make someone feel like that again.’ None of us are perfect. Trust me, I have a lot of things that I make mistakes on. I’m not perfect but I will try to be the best person and not make you feel bad.