Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald has revealed that he once went home with a black eye and bruised ribs as a result of schoolyard bullying.
The senior hurling boss explained the extent of his torment in a speech at Limerick Institute of Technology yesterday, saying that he used to “dread getting up in the mornings” as the experience was “the toughest time in my life”.
“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,” he explained.
“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.”
The All-Ireland winning manager said that bullying was “something I cannot tolerate” and urged those responsible to “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. I’ve often looked at smart arses that think they know it all. To me, I go through them for shortcut, if I see someone make fun of someone, because you’re not as smart as you let on, you’re not as tough as you let on,” he explained.
“Did they make me stronger? They did, without any shadow of a doubt. People often ask me why I have an attitude on the sideline. I have an attitude because I won’t let anyone walk down on top of me. 100% not.”
The Clare team surprised many critics with their unyielding display in last year’s Championship but Fitzgerald revealed that his team was forced to introduce a code of discipline to counteract the drug and culture within the panel.
“From the mid-2000s, in Clare, my feeling was that Clare was a social team. 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,” he said.
“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.”