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'This Woman Four Or Five Seats Down Was In Floods Of Tears. I Got Emotional Myself'

'This Woman Four Or Five Seats Down Was In Floods Of Tears. I Got Emotional Myself'

The career of Iggy Clarke is the subject of the fourth episode of the new season of Laochra Gael.

The show airs at 9:30pm on TG4 on Thursday 26th March.

Clarke is one of Galway's greatest and most beloved hurlers. He won four All-Stars in a career which spanned the early 70s to mid-80s.

As Galway won the 1980 title, he sat on the sideline due to a collarbone injury which he suffered in the semi-final. In a truly memorable moment following Joe Connolly's famous captain's speech, Galway fans chanted for Clarke to lift the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Clarke was more than a hurler. More commonly known during his career as Fr Iggy, he was ordained as a priest in 1978.

However, after giving 20 years to the vocation, he decided it was no longer for him.

"My brother Joe was a priest and he used to live on his own in different parishes," Clarke says in the episode.

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I was saying to myself, 'I don't want to live this way. I don't think I'd be comfortable in it. I don't think I'd reach my potential by doing it'. If I wasn't achieving that, then life didn't make any sense.

I was well burned out at that stage. I asked the Bishop for a sabbatical year. I went to America. I remember saying to myself, 'Well, God, I'm going to enjoy this and I'm going to recover and I'm to recuperate and think about things'.

At the end of the summer, I came back to Loughrea again. I found within a short time... I said 'I can't do this'. I made my decision and that's when I made my announcement.

Telling his Loughrea parishioners that he would be leaving the priesthood was an emotional moment. It was also a decision which became national news.

"When I arrived out here first I was extremely nervous," he says.

"I didn't know what to expect or do. I was very conscious of knowing the people so well and they knew me inside out.

"I knew well that I'd be disappointing them. When I saw the different reactions of people as I spoke, I found myself getting quite emotional because they were getting emotional.

"The next thing, I saw this woman four or five seats down and she was in floods of tears. Then I got all emotional myself."

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Clarke moved into counselling and did a degree in psychology at UCC. He also married.

"People did say to me 'You're the one that Fr Iggy Clarke left the priesthood for - you took a good man," Clarke's wife, Mariel Forde-Clarke, recalls in the show.

"There was many a time that I was told I was the Jezebel. Even a local priest stood on my door, he was new to the parish, and he said, 'Mmmm... you're the one they're all talking about'."

More than 40 years after being ordained and over 20 since he took that life-altering decision, Clarke finds himself in a happy place.

"I never thought in my lifetime that I'd be married and I'd have step kids," he says.

"Now that I have grandkids, that's a beautiful fulfilment in my life if you like."

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PJ Browne
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