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A Different View

Davy Fitz’s greatest victory – beating his childhood bullies

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A Different View with Dave O’Connell

There are few Irish sportspeople who can polarise opinion like the Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald – he’s loved by his own and often appears hell bent on ensuring the rest of the country can’t stand him.

But that pendulum swung in the opposite direction this week when he again spoke of the bullying he was on the receiving end of as a young student.

On one hand, it may have shown that – at one stage at least – his popularity in Clare wasn’t universal. But more importantly, it saw him soar in the estimation of so many others up and down the land.

It wasn’t the first time that he has spoken about bullying but it was the graphic way he described it that really captured the terror that victims of this most cowardly practice have to endure on a daily basis.

For those who missed it – and there cannot have been many – he was talking to students at the Limerick Institute of Technology and he spoke of those times on the school bus when he lived in daily fear of his oppressors.

It might be hard to reconcile the opinionated, animated, doggedly determined hurling man of today with the small boy who was a soft target for his attackers.

But what was really shocking about his experience was the relentlessness of the attacks – the smashing of an egg into his head, the throwing of his shoes out the school window, the gross invasion of his person by boys who probably through that this was, for the most part, just a bit of craic.

Even now, 30 years on, Fitzy’s own words capture the terror in a way that illustrates just how lasting a mark this behaviour left on him.

“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,” he told the students.

The difference between Davy Fitzgerald and others, of course, is that deep down he had the determination and will to win that was to epitomise his playing career and now his management style as well.

He had a dream and despite the best efforts of bullies he was not going to be deflected from achieving it. To that end, he was lucky – it is the boys and girls who don’t have that inner strength who fold to a point that their futures are forever tarnished because a few hard men wanted to have the craic.

The caricature of Davy Fitzgerald is that of a squealing lunatic, besieging his charges to go that extra yard; it’s easy for impressionists to send him up – and we all laugh when they do.

I’ve never met him, but there’s a great friend of mine who has known him from the time he first pulled on that Clare jersey – and he describes him both as one of the best friends and one of the nicest men in sport.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

 

Connacht Tribune

No great rush to mend the error of your ways!

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was St Augustine who famously petitioned in prayer: ‘God, make me good – but just not yet’. It’s a sentiment that one Sister Mary Joseph took to whole new levels, because after spending her first 61 years as a high-living heiress, she spent the last three decades as a cloistered nun.

And she closed one chapter to open another one back in 1989 with a party for 800 of her closest friends at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco – so many guests that the hostess carried a helium balloon all night, with the words “Here I Am” so that people could find her amid the throng.

The next day the former Ann Russell Miller flew to Chicago and joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as a novitiate, spending the rest of her life as Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity.

Or as one of her 28 grandchildren put it: “It was like The Great Gatsby turned into The Sound of Music.”

Her recent obituary in the Times painted quite the colourful picture of a lover of the high life turned Holy Roller.

“She smoked, drank champagne, played cards, spent five hours a day on the telephone and, as an expert scuba diver and enthusiastic skier, travelled around the world.

“She had a season ticket to the opera, was a high-society patron of many charitable causes and drove her sports car at such reckless speeds that, according to her son Mark, ‘people got out of her car with a sore foot from slamming on an imaginary brake’.”

Because if ever a life could be described as a tale of two-thirds of high living and one-third of contemplation, this was it; the mother of ten who enjoyed the casual company of celebrity friends like Nancy Reagan and Bob Hope opted for an order which allowed her one visitor a month – and even then no touching given the two rows of iron bars between them.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Online games will always give way to world of pure imagination

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When we were young and Wimbledon came on the telly for two weeks, we’d all rush out to hit a tennis ball off the wall and imagine for an hour that we were Jimmy Connors or Bjorn Borg.

On the odd occasion when we saw live football on TV – the World Cup, the FA Cup Final, or Jimmy Magee covering another false dawn for Ireland at Dalymount Park – we took to the footpath and pretended we were Johnny Giles or Georgie Best.

Jumpers for goalposts, games that went on for hours, fly-goalkeepers, next goal wins – a world of entertainment for the price of a plastic football.

Now when it’s half-time in Sky Sports’ fifth live match of the weekend, the kids still want to play their own version when it’s over. Except they do it on the PlayStation so they never have to leave the comfort of the couch.

Even if we re-enacted the World Cup indoors back in the day, we did it with Subbuteo – so we still got more action and exercise than today’s kids, even if it was just a flick of the fingers.

But in the absence of video games, we did all this with nothing more than our vivid imaginations on a field of dreams that was otherwise a concrete car park or a patch of grass.

We pretended we were Mick O’Connell or maybe Mikey Sheehy (but never Brian Mullins or Jimmy Keaveney) as we fielded balls majestically out of the clouds – even if reality would suggest we hardly left the ground.

It was a world of our imagination where we supplied our own running commentary; these days, FIFA 21 does it for you.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

We’re at our most sure-footed when we find common ground

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When two Irish people meet, they have thirty seconds to find someone they have in common or both of them will die.

It was a Tweet that made me smile recently – but then, thinking a little more, it’s actually so, so true.

We seem lost if we can’t make a common connection, as if six degrees of separation is about three steps too far.

Of course, we’re spoilt in Galway because you’ll never ever meet someone who doesn’t know Michael D; they were either lectured by him, they canvassed for him, they sat beside him in Terryland Park, they chatted with him at the Arts Festival before it had a tent, or they’ve been to a garden party at the Áras.

And once the pressure is off because you’ve made one connection, the rest will flow like soup off Alan Dukes’ fork, as Johneen Donnellan once observed.

It’s a small county in the scheme of things so it shouldn’t be any wonder that we’re well connected – from school or college or work or extended family or geography, we’re a stone’s throw from everyone else.

Half of Mayo, of course, knows Joe Biden – and never has a man had so many fourth cousins once removed (if it gets much worse, he might have to have them forcibly removed) since he got the keys to the big White House.

We can’t claim to know Barack Obama, but half of Galway knows Billy Lawless, who hosted the former Chicago senator in his acclaimed restaurant – we knew Billy as a politician or a publican, in Trigger Martyn’s or the old Twelve in Barna. So that’s close enough.

We’re also familiar with Pat McDonagh, who doesn’t just own Supermac’s; he also owns the Barack Obama Plaza in Offaly. So that’s a second Presidential connection to someone we’ve never actually met.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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