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Ex-Ireland Striker Clare Shine Sees 'Massive Gap' To Help Footballers

Pictured is former Ireland footballer, Clare Shine, ahead of this year’s Darkness Into Light, the annual fundraising event organised by Pieta & supported by Electric Ireland, which takes place next Saturday, May 6th. Over 100,000 people will come together across 200 locations on the most important sunrise of the year as communities across Ireland rally to bring hope to people who have been impacted by suicide.
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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Clare Shine got goosebumps on Wednesday morning as she did a video call to promote Pieta's Darkness into Light fundraising event.

Eight years previous, the former Ireland international footballer had been availing of Pieta's services in a dark period of her life. It was during that time she took up journaling, a practice which helped her through battles with alcohol and drug addiction, and a suicide attempt.

Those journals eventually became the foundation for her autobiography Scoring Goals in the Dark which was published last year. Until Wednesday, she had not thought about that time in Pieta being the origin of the book.

Now she's on the other side of her football career, and in a place where she wants to be the one helping others. It's eight months since she retired from football, aged just 27, a decision which lifted a weight from her mind.

Shine won seven caps for Ireland, scored a hat-trick in a Scottish Cup final, the winner in another, and also in an FAI Cup final for Cork City.

"I had to make that leap and that jump for myself. I needed to change," she says about her decision to retire.

"I just found myself in a vicious cycle all the time. I didn't want to put my body in my mind through that."


clare shine ireland football retirement

15 September 2021; Clare Shine during a Republic of Ireland training session at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown, Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Initially, she took up a role with Glasgow City Foundation, an arm of the club with which she had been playing prior to retirement, but in November, she returned home to Cork.


"It was a permanent role," she explains, "but I just felt in that moment that I wanted to come home and spend time with my family and my friends and my girlfriend as well.

"I've been away from home for a number of years, so I wanted to come home and go through these moments with my family and deal with not playing sport as well.

"I never had a job before I stopped playing and when I moved home, it was something that I had to do. I got a job in Pepsi in a manufacturing company, which has been really good. It's been fun.


"It's a massive eye-opener to what actually goes on in the real world. When you live, and are involved in professional sports, you live in a bubble."

Clare Shine: 'My goal is to really help people'

Shine believes there is an opportunity to help those in that bubble with their mental struggles.

clare shine ireland football retirement

22 July 2017; Clare Shine of Cork City WFC celebrates after scoring her side's first goal of the game during the Continental Tyres Women’s National League match between Cork City WFC and Galway WFC at Bishopstown Stadium in Co. Cork. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

"I'm doing a life coaching course. I've learned a lot about myself throughout it," she says.

"I think there's a massive gap there in women's football as well that needs to be explored to help people reach their potential and to support players, a lot more off the pitch than on the pitch.


"My goal is to really help people, especially athletes. Mindset is huge as an athlete, having a positive mindset is something that I think goes under the radar a little bit.

"As an athlete, there's a lot of demands and expectations, not just from you, but from the fans and everybody else that watches it. The way the women's game is going is just getting bigger and bigger, and you're in the spotlight.


"When you're in those kinds of negative mindsets and getting bogged in by what people are saying about you or a bad game, or if you're going through an injury, you know it's very lonely at times.


11 March 2020; Clare Shine of Republic of Ireland during the UEFA Women's 2021 European Championships Qualifier match between Montenegro and Republic of Ireland at Pod Malim Brdom in Petrovac, Montenegro. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"You're seeing at the moment that players are playing two games a week for the last number of months. That's bound to catch up on players and they need to have that safe space to go and speak about how they're feeling.

"When you're tired, you seem to be a lot more emotional - well, I seem to be a lot more emotional. That's when mental health and well-being support needs to come into play.

"They need to be able to step up and to support these players especially when things are going well as well as when things are going bad."

Since retirement, opportunities have opened up for the Cork native. On Monday, she was at the Emirates to watch Katie McCabe and Arsenal agonisingly lose to Wolfsburg in the Champions League semi-final. Attending a game like that was not an option when she was playing.

Shine also has her tickets booked for Ireland's World Cup adventure in Australia, and she's been doing some commentary on games during an exciting time for the Irish women's team.

clare shine ireland football retirement

9 June 2022; Clare Shine at the launch of her book "Scoring Goals in the Dark", at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

"I've had a number of people contact me on social media since I have gone quite vocal about my mental health and stuff," she says.

"There have been many stories and many people who are now out the other side. This particular one just rings a bell. He's actually a good friend of mine. A year ago, he reached out to me. He had just started his recovery process with addiction, and he reached out saying he had seen a post by me on social media and had liked it and shared it.

"He messaged me afterwards, being like 'Your social media platform, and your story actually helped me getting sober'. He's now coming up to two years sober. He's making all these appearances on TV, and he's helping other people. He's also doing life coaching as well.

"It just takes one second, one moment to change someone's life. That's all it takes. Knowing somebody else has been through that is huge for someone who's going through that start of their process.

"It is daunting having to talk about it, it's the worst feeling ever because you can't even get your words out because you just start crying.

"It just takes one person to even attend this walk and to be 'Great, I'm going to make that jump. I'm going to go and ask for help'.

"I can remember doing the [Darkness into Light] walk. I had just finished in Pieta House in 2015 and I did it in Dublin with my Raheny teammates. They had known that I was in there, and I think I cried for the whole walk from start to finish.

"I was crying and they were crying and, you know, it just takes moments like that to see that you have that support and you have people around you.

"I am one of the lucky ones to come out the other side. I'm just grateful for the support that I have been getting."

Each year, Darkness Into Light helps raise essential funds and enables Pieta to continue providing free of charge suicide prevention, intervention and bereavement support to people of all ages across Ireland. Last month, Electric Ireland extended its sponsorship of Darkness Into Light for another three years up to 2025.

To sign up for this year’s event, visit www.darknessintolight.ie #DIL2023 #BrighterTogether

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