When Michael Met Davy: A lesson in working hard, believing and dreaming big

'When Michael Met Davy' aired on RTÉ last night to universal praise and was in equal parts emotional and inspiring. Here we discuss why it made such an impact


On the Monday of a bank holiday, when many of us are hungover and emotional, a touching documentary isn't always what we want. However, it is what the country got – and we are still reeling from the effects of it on Tuesday.

When Michael Met Davy

When Michael Met Davy centres around 11-year-old Michael O' Brien from Killarney, Co Kerry. Michael became a living legend after appearing on the Late Late Toy Show last year to review braille books.

Michael is visually impaired, but he did not let that hamper his fire and spark – nor his unconditional love for the GAA. On the show, he met his hero, Wexford hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald. So impressed was Davy that he invited Michael to give a motivational team talk to the Wexford hurling team before their national league game to Tipperary.

Power of community

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The documentary, which aired on RTÉ One last night, followed Michael on his journey and preparation for the big day. We met his family, his school friends and his teachers–those who know him and care for him. We were given a glimpse into the everyday world of a child with a disability, as well as the power which comes from a community rallying together to give the best to one of their own.

His school, St Olivers in Killarney, serves 681 pupils but the attention and support it gives to Michael are second to none. From his class teacher to his principal, special needs teachers and SNA Una, each person treats him with the same attitude and level of respect as they do every other student. Although his lessons and the way in which he learns is different, the subject matters do not change.

It is this equality which attributes to Michael's unwavering determination. He doesn't see the difference because those around him won't allow it. The work of both his family and his school helps to encourage his tenacity, not diminish it.

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A character

Michael is a true character; one who can keep up the banter with the team. But, what was most astonishing from the documentary, was his passion and knowledge of the GAA.

When asked what his favourite GAA match of all time was, he replied (almost obscurely) that it was the 1977 All-Ireland semi-final between Kerry and Dublin. This was a match which took place 31 years before Michael was born, yet he spoke of it with such vigour and enthusiasm you would swear he was there.

He also spoke of Michael Cusack and Maurice Davin and the history of the GAA since 1884 – pieces of information that many GAA enthusiasts wouldn't even know.

Davy Fitz should be applauded for giving Michael the opportunity to be more than his disability. Michael's words of encouragement not only gave the Wexford team the push they needed to beat Tipperary by a point, but also the hope to all of us who are struggling to get over the finish line.

Dream big

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Each of us has our own trials and tribulations, this is a fact of life. However, seeing Michael makes you sit back and think. He has such love and admiration for a sport which he may never be able to play. Nevertheless, he perseveres and immerses himself fully in GAA. At the beginning of the documentary, Michael told us you must always have a 'Plan B', and he has found his through loving and living the sport.

While watching the documentary, I thought of the many obstacles I put in my own way. Michael, on the other hand, doesn't see obstacles. He sees only learning curves where you must adapt and change the plan – but these roadblocks should never stop you.

In the cynical and often 'one-way system' world we live in, we need more Michael O' Briens. We need more of his teachers who cherish and uplift pupils, and we need more people like Davy Fitz who are willing to bestow opportunities such as the one Michael got.

It was an uplifting, positive and stirring look into the world of a boy much wiser than his 11 years. So, the next time you feel like you can't achieve your dream, or something is standing in your way – think of Michael's words. Work and believe and dream big.

Then you will be okay.

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Michael's full speech

"Settle down now lads. I have a few words to say. My name is Michael O' Brien from the Kingdom of Kerry and I have come here to talk to ye today. Now, lads, I have one message for ye here today and that is to dream big.

"Dream big.

"Little did I think I would be here today standing in front of a county team, but I am here. Some people said I'd never be here but I am here. There are two things you have got to do: work and believe.

"Work and believe.

"We all know the hurlers who can talk a good game, but actions speak louder than words. Lads, ye need to change yer story and believe in that change. No more Wexford in second place. No more Wexford try again. No more Wexford hard attempt.

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"You have got to change your story. Change your story. Now get out there today and show Tipperary who Wexford hurling is.

"Dream big.

"Dream big."

Photo: When Michael Met Davy, RTÉ


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