Thursday 24 May 2018

'We shut out the negativity'

GAA players not obliged to bare their souls to media says five-time All-Ireland winner Philly

Pictured at the launch of the second media says five-time All-Ireland winner Philly National Fitness Day, which takes place today, led by Ireland Active and supported by Healthy Ireland and Sport Ireland, is Dublin All-Ireland SFC winner Philly McMahon with Conn McCluskey and Sibha Bhoja. Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO
Pictured at the launch of the second media says five-time All-Ireland winner Philly National Fitness Day, which takes place today, led by Ireland Active and supported by Healthy Ireland and Sport Ireland, is Dublin All-Ireland SFC winner Philly McMahon with Conn McCluskey and Sibha Bhoja. Photo: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Philly McMahon is a 'f*ck the begrudgers' sort of fella.

And though he's unmoved by the opinions of some of the louder parts of the choir of discontent over the last week, it's hard to recall an All-Ireland winning team take has taken much flak as Dublin.

Is it offensive?

"If these people meant something to me in life, it would be," he says. "But they don't."

By McMahon's judgement, neither Dublin nor Mayo broke new ground in the muddied field of gamesmanship in their All-Ireland war of last Sunday week.

There is, he acknowledges, a culture of teams bending rules in their favour in the GAA in both codes that has been around for a lot longer than he has played Gaelic football.

Indeed, McMahon notes that the matches he watched as a child were far flintier affairs than the ones he participates in now.

"You're never going to get rid of cynical play," he shrugs.


"A player is going to do absolutely whatever they can - I would have taken off my jersey and thrown it at Dean Rock, to put him off, you know?!

"So this is the game."

He suggests also that those who condemn it, don't really understand it.

"There are people that are from an external GAA background that are starting to get involved in it and that's probably why it's starting to get so much media hype," he adds.

"So that's all I can … there's nothing more to it. If people want to say bad things about us, we can't really stop it.

"I'm sure people have called me worse names."

It would seem that Dublin are being denounced for not winning the right way.

And apparently, not reacting the 'right' way to winning.


"The big thing is that the public ... they expect something different from him, they expect him to be jumping around celebrating," he says of Jim Gavin's winning demeamour, a curious source of annoyance in that the Dublin manager would appear to be winding people up by doing nothing.


"It's not wrong for him to be himself. It's no different for Stephen Cluxton after 2011.

"People started speaking about why wasn't he jumping around the pitch.

"That's who he is. Why should he change for anybody?"

Still, Gavin's staunch refusal to open a window to his soul is at odds with McMahon's engaging nature.

He has, since his brother John's death in 2012, spoke openly about his experiences of growing up in Ballymun and his sibling's ultimately lost battle with heroin.

Moreover, he has used his profile to establish a charity to further the cause of children from disadvantaged backgrounds yet the increasing prominence of media, both social and more traditional forms, in the GAA means players are being judged on their willingness or ability to engage.

"It's getting to the level where the media want to know more about the players' lives," he points out, "but you have to remember we are amateur, we don't have to tell you anything about our personal lives.

"We know we represent the jersey, the community, and the county and there is a media obligation to get the support for us out there and that has helped us massively but at the end of the day we don't get a penny for playing the sport.

"It's not our obligation to tell anyone anything about our personal lives.

"The reason I spoke about John was because it was nearly a weight off my shoulders and I know that if I spoke about him it could potentially help someone who was potentially in my situation growing up and it could have an effect.

"I can understand if people don't want to speak about their personal life, you just can't go up to someone and tell me about your personal life!

"I don't get it when people say that, you know?"

For all that, McMahon has gone firmly against the pack in the last week by announcing the publication of an autobiography, The Choice.

It is the first such book written by a Dublin player since Dessie Farrell's Tangled Up in Blue was published in 2005, although the tome is thought to be light on footballing insight and instead, focuses on McMahon's childhood and chronicles his late brother's tragic story.

"The way I see it, you have two special days - the day you're born and the day you find out what you're here to do," McMahon explains of his motivations.

'I'm very fortunate and grateful to pull on the Dublin jersey and to use then the success that we've had as a platform to help others and that then is going to be funnelled into a charity.

"The book, then, is about ... essentially when I started speaking about drug addiction and mental health at the end of 2015, I was being asked to speak at a lot of events and tell my story to a lot of people.

"I was getting a lot of people coming up to me asking for help but I just couldn't help everybody as much as I wanted to.

"So, I think this is a way of getting my story out to a wider audience, my experiences and hopefully it will help people. It's not only for people that have drug addiction.

"The reason we called it The Choice was because it's about the choices I've made in life.

"I'm hoping it has some impact on the people that read it."

It's been a rough few months for McMahon.

His father, Phil, is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer of the stomach.

His diagnosis is terminal, although he made it to Croke Park a couple of weeks ago to watch his son win a fifth All-Ireland medal.


Afterwards, Phil tried to make his way down the steps of the Hogan Stand to embrace Philly.

"I was going 'stay up there', because where they were sitting was just covered in Mayo fans all the way up the steps," McMahon recalls.

"So I said 'stay up there' and jumped in.

"I was running up the steps ... they were pulling out of me and cursing me!

"And they weren't to know, to be honest.

"It was special for me. It was probably a bit more special than any other All-Ireland because who knows?

"And that's the thing with this team. We're very grateful for what we have. I think it was the League final last year, a man came in to us and he only had a couple of days to live," he recalls.

"Little things like that make us not give a shit about what people say to us in the papers.

McMahon adds: "Life is too short to be listening to people that talk bad about us."

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