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'Christmas Has Never Been Great Since. It Was Such A Time For Family'

'Christmas Has Never Been Great Since. It Was Such A Time For Family'
PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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Micahel Darragh Macauley says whenever he finds himself "moping around", he asks himself what his mother and father would want him to do in that moment.

The former Dublin midfielder lost his mother Rosaleen to lung cancer when he was just 12 and his father 14 years later.

"I was in around fifth class, 10 or 11-years-old," the eight-time All-Ireland winner said in his episode of TG4's Laochra Gael which aired earlier this year.

"My Dad told me that my Mum had this thing going on in her lungs, the big C. [You think] it's just a sickness and you really don't think much more about it. There were a few more visits to hospital and she wasn't getting any better.

"I have distinctive memories of going down Foster's Avenue, and my Dad explaining that she wasn't going to make it, and that we had to say goodbye to her. It was tough.

"One of the sadder things is that some of my memories have regressed on it, and I can't remember enough at times. From time to time, people that knew her better than I did, would tell me stories about her. I'm always all ears.

"One day, a woman stopped me in the park, who I'd never met before in my life. She said, 'Are you Michael Darragh? I just wanted to say that I was best friends with your Mam'. Then she tried to run away from me, and I was running after her to get some more stories from her.


"I got asked in my first years playing for Dublin, 'Where do you get your sporting ability?' I said, 'Ah, look, there's none really in my family. Just by myself, I grew it out of nowhere'. Then my auntie rings me the next day saying, 'What are you saying? Your Mam was the captain of the running team, and she set all these records'. She was one of the best athletes in her school.


"I always felt that I never really processed it. I didn't understand, didn't have anyone else who'd had that happen. Everyone had their Mum and everyone had their Dad.

"My Dad wasn't the type of parent who was good with his emotions. He was an old school Dad like so many of us had."


michael darragh macauley dublin mother father

18 September 2011; Michael Darragh Macauley, Dublin, in action against Killian Young, Kerry. All-Ireland Football Championship final, Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

A year after winning his first All-Ireland 2011, Macauley's father Michael died.


"My Dad had lung fibrosis, which is a wasting away of the lungs," says the 2013 Footballer of the Year.

"There's no cure, apart from a transplant. It was a steady downhill battle but it just gradually gets worse and worse. Then he started taking oxygen for an hour a day, then two hours, and eventually it was 24 hours a day he was strapped up to oxygen tanks.

"I was in and out of hospitals, and sleeping on the floors of the transplant unit in the Mater Hospital. It was a bit of a rollercoaster with that. There was always this ray of hope with a transplant, it just didn't come.


"The one question I always myself... I've done the whole feeling sorry for myself [thing], and 'I have no parents' and I've moped around... Christmas has never been great since. It was such a time for family. Christmas Day is the one day that I do feel sorry for myself.

"Day-to-day, I just ask myself the same question: What would your Mom want? What would your Dad want you to do right now? It's so simple but it just gets me out of that hole. If my Da saw me moping around, he'd give me a kick up the arse. My Ma would be saying, 'What are you doing? Get on with yourself'. That's the only thing that got me through."

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