Former Aston Villa and Shamrock Rovers player Mikey Drennan has spoken about the gambling problems and loneliness he faced in his time as a young professional in England and the depression that ended his career at Rovers.
Drennan, in a remarkably candid interview with Ray D'Arcy on RTE Radio 1 today, spoke about the empty afternoons he struggled to fill in his time trying to establish himself at the Midlands club:
Some days you’d be finished around half one, two and you’ve the rest of the day to fill which is hard...I used to just go back to digs, close the curtains and watch telly. That was basically it. Had no motivation to do anything.
You have your routine, you get up, have your breakfast, go to training and all that stuff. But then when you come back (you’re like), ‘Oh, I’m going back now. What do I do?’ At such a young age going away you haven’t got your own family there, your friends, you have to make new friends. It’s hard.
Former Ireland under 19 captain Drennan described seeking refuge in gambling in the long, lonely afternoons in England, with little to do and no bills or rent to cover:
You have money in your pocket. You don't have to pay money for rent. (I spent money on) horses and that was it. Used to blow my money. You'd have nothing then for the rest of the month.
Shamrock Rovers fans will have fond memories of Friday, 15th April. It was the day their charges traveled to Dalymount Park and, helped by a strong performance from Drennan, defeated arch-rivals Bohemians 4-0 in a result that sent most wearing the famous green and white into exaltations. Except Drennan. Despite his star turn on the night, he found himself "crying" outside the dressing room while his jubilant team-mates celebrated inside. That was the moment he knew something wasn't right.
I think that’s when I knew ,‘This isn’t for me. I'm not happy at all.’ People say you forget everything when you’re on a pitch. I didn’t.
That moment marked a watershed for the Kilkenny native. Recognising at last the reality of his problems, the 22-year old set about getting himself better. And while he acknowledges that "there's still a long way to go", he says that he feels better, "that I'm back home and getting the help that I need."
No conversation with a Kilkenny sportsman would be complete without some reference to hurling. But to Drennan, hurling is more than just an activity to occupy his evenings or a hobby. It is a vital aspect of his recovery, helping to keep his mind "busy" and his body "active", twin aspects of his path to recovery. And he wouldn't rule out swapping the stripes of Rovers for the familiar black and yellow of his native county.
I don't want to put pressure on myself but I want to play for my county. I need to work hard, keep my mind busy, take steps at a time. I think if I put the hard work in I could have the ability but it’s a matter of ‘get myself better first’.
Whether he is to play in Nowlan Park, Tallaght Stadium or, as at present, the land graced by James Stephens Junior B sides, Mikey Drennan is facing up to an opponent far tougher than any he will encounter on a pitch.