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Seven Years After Darkest Days, Maurice Shanahan Finds The Light

Seven Years After Darkest Days, Maurice Shanahan Finds The Light

March 13th was the best day of Maurice Shanahan's life. His wife Katie gave birth to their daughter Rosie.

"Jesus, being in that room when Rosie was born was a different feeling altogether," says Shanahan, speaking ahead of the Darkness Into Light 'One Sunrise Together' on May 8th.

"It was the best feeling I ever got in my life to be honest, to hold my daughter in my arms straight away. Thankfully everything is good with her. She's flying at the moment."

It contrasts greatly to the place the Waterford hurler found himself in seven years ago when depression hit him hard, and he made two attempts to take his own life.

"I suppose in 2014 I kind of saw no way out," he says.

"I kind of locked myself away for nearly two months. My family members knew there was something wrong and were trying to look after me but I didn't really want their help either at the time.

"I was training away with Waterford but I didn't want to be there. I didn't want to be going training.

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"I always travelled with Shane Fives and Tommy Ryan but there would be nights I'd text them saying ''I'll go down myself tonight'. I just wanted to be on my own going down the road.

"There would be some nights going down the road when you'd just be crying, and you get yourself right, train with the lads and then you cry coming home again, cry in bed. Once you're below training, look, you were just putting on a brave face in front of everyone, just to get through it."

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Pictured is former Waterford hurler, Maurice Shanahan, who has teamed up with Electric Ireland to invite the public to join them for a special ‘One Sunrise Together’ for Darkness Into Light on Saturday, May 8th, in order to raise vital funds for Pieta’s lifesaving services. You can sign up now at www.darknessintolight.ie

The 31-year-old can't pinpoint the exact origin of his troubles with depression though he believes it started in early 2014 when he was injured and unable to play a full part in Waterford training.

"Things like that bothered me a small bit," he says

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"It flowed from there.

"I was getting older, putting a bit of pressure on myself. You're expected to be breaking through and I'm saying, 'It's taking me longer than other lads'.

"I started with Noel Connors. In Noel's first year, he won an All-Star. Second year, third year, he was playing consistently. It didn't work like that for me. I just kept getting injured when things were coming right.

"It just rollercoastered on me, hit me fair hard. I started waking at 4am and could cry for five or six hours.

"I remember ringing Brendan Landers. He played in goal for Waterford in '98 and would be a good, close friend of mine now - a clubmate of mine as well.

"I remember ringing him some morning and saying, 'Brendan, I don't know what's wrong with me. I'm crying three or four hours. I just don't know'."

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After his first suicide attempt, then Waterford manager Derek McGrath brought Shanahan back into the squad but it was a step the player wasn't ready to take. McGrath told him to take the year out and come back stronger the following season. Though, he did not cut ties completely. McGrath checked in every day.

Sean Prendergast, a local teacher and also manager of the Lismore senior hurlers, was another constant presence.

maurice shanahan waterford depression suicide

9 August 2020; Maurice Shanahan of Lismore in action against Kealan Daly of Dungarvan during a Waterford SFC match at Fraher Field in Dungarvan, Waterford. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

"I could hear the school bell going at half two or a quarter to three, and five minutes later, Sean would arrive up to my house for two or three weeks solid with bottles of water, bottles of Lucozade," says Shanahan.

'Could you come up to the field to training tonight? You don't even have to train, just to be with the lads,' he'd say. To be honest, I didn't want to go. I didn't want to play.

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"I'll never forget, we were playing Roanmore in the championship below in Walsh Park. I remember the lads training of the Thursday night, and me having done nothing for maybe a month.

"I remember Mattie Pender - he was a selector, he said 'We need you tomorrow evening.' I said 'I have no interest in playing that match.' And I didn't, I didn't want to. But it was the best thing I've done. I got the gear the following day, went down, was inside full forward and we got three goals between us, myself and Dan, I got two and it kind of brought a pep back into my step.

"I'll never forget it, we got a free to win the game around 60/70 yards out. I'd say most of the lads didn't want me hitting it because they didn't know what kind of headspace I was in but thankfully, it went over the bar.

"The joy I got from that day. I remember the huddle after the match, I thanked every one of them that got me down there and that gave a bit of life to me again. There was a long road after that, there was, we lost to Ballygunner in the county [quarter-final] but I was back into it big time and I wanted to go to the field, wanted to be back hurling. It got me back."

When Shanahan did reach out for help, it was former Cork hurler Conor Cusack who made the strongest connection.

"The one thing I would say is, I was talking to a few people who were trying to help me, but it was going in one ear and out the other," he says.

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"But when I talked to Conor, I could understand it with his GAA background and from a guy who had played sport and done what I had done growing up. Whatever he said to me, I took it on board and I found it a great help to be honest."

maurice shanahan waterford depression suicide

Shanahan still has the odd bad day, but he also has the tools to deal with them, and friends and family members he can count on to listen.

"If it's a family friend or even a stranger - because there are counsellors out there who are great - it's just about going out and opening up to people that you trust," he says.

"The minute you do there's always light. It's like a dark tunnel, but the minute I opened up I could see a small bit of light at the end of it straight away.

"The one thing I would encourage kids, male or female, is to maybe talk to your mam or dad. It mightn't be an easy thing to do. Or talk to your brother or sister. Talk to someone.

"2014 was the worst part of my life. Then in 2015, I went on to win an All-Star. That gave me a big lift because turning yourself around that fast... And then what happened six weeks ago with Rosie coming along was the best thing ever.

"If I didn't talk out in 2014, who knows? I might never have witnessed that. But, it was the best day of my life so far, witnessing the birth of our daughter."

See Also: TG4 To Broadcast 25 Live Football And Hurling League Games

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PJ Browne
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