herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Niall reveals depression battle and talks of his tragic pal Gary

SOCCER legend Niall Quinn has opened up about his battle with depression following his retirement as a footballer.

The former Irish international player warned that Irish sportsmen, in particular rugby players, could require counselling when their careers end.

Niall (45) revealed yesterday that he had struggled with depression so much that he was unable to go back to his former club, Sunderland FC to watch his teammates play.

"I finished at Sunderland all of a sudden and came home to Ireland and for six months, there is no doubt about it, I suffered a form of depression.

"I hadn't been prepared at all. My wife [Gillian] had to kick me out the door to go [and work with] Sky TV.

"I was saying, 'I don't want to do that'. I can't explain why."

Niall, who was a pal of tragic suicide victim Gary Speed, remarked that sportsmen who suffered from depression should receive greater support and help.

"In light of Gary Speed's death, this problem became a more widely discussed subject.

"I had a little bit of a falling out with Gordon Taylor [chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association in England] on the basis that Gordon had sent out a pamphlet to players about how to get over depression.

"I thought they should do a lot more than that."

The Professional Footballers' Association of Ireland and former rugby star Alan Quinlan will be launching a programme about depression next week.

Niall noted that rugby players may be particularly vulnerable to the illness because of their professional success as sportsmen.

"Gary's death was shocking. Any time you'd meet him you'd get a big hug.

"It is an issue -- and after the careers that this batch of Irish rugby players are after having, there will be one or two of those who will find it so difficult when the glory days stop," he said.

The Irish Rugby Football Union said that they do help their players.

Niall is not the only sportsman to have recently commented on the importance of raising awareness about mental illness among sportsmen.

Irish boxing champion Bernard Dunne admitted last month that his retirement had left him at a loss.

"In some way, I can understand what these guys are going through," he told the Herald.

"I stopped boxing after 25 years, I started thinking, 'what am I going to do with myself?', thankfully I had support.

"If you're suffering, if you feel like your back is against the wall, just say it to someone, even the dog."

The dad-of-two said that he had gone back to training after a two-year break to help maintain a healthy body and mind.

hnews@herald.ie

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