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How love KO'd Kenny's demons

Two women will be praying for boxer Kenny Egan to win his battle with the booze -- his mum, Maura, who has spoken of her heartbreak at watching her son drink heavily, and his glamorous, devoted girlfriend Sharon McHugh, who will be looking forward to a great future with her sporting hero.

Olympic silver medallist Kenny has continued boxing following his heroic performance in Beijing in 2008, yet he shocked fans when he told how he had gone on marathon drinking sessions.

The Dubliner, who is now based in Miami, said in a recent interview: "I was in a bad place. I was drinking too much. Ever since I got back from the games I just went mad on it."

The top athlete said his drink binges "would go on for a week, two weeks. I'd go mad. I'd start with my mates and then the next day I'd go with someone else and then the last day of the week I'd be sitting with an old man in a corner, giving him high fives. At the end of it I'd say: 'What am I at here?' I'd go home then, get into bed, feel all sorry for myself, sweat, nightmares, the whole lot. I broke my mother's heart."


It's a confession which will have rung true for other young people who watched the sporting star speak honestly about his drinking on The Saturday Night Show.

"There is no such thing as internal denial, and other young people will have thought listening to Kenny 'that's me'," says Colin O'Driscoll, principal psychologist and treatment director at the Forest Centre in Wicklow, which treats addiction and alcoholism.

Following two years of excessive drinking, Kenny has been sober for the past 25 weeks, and is attending regular AA meetings to help him cope with his addiction. For inspiration, he need look no further than fellow recovering alcoholics -- bestselling novelist Marian Keyes, singer Frances Black, and actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is apparently doing well after a stint in rehab, plus former hellraiser Colin Farrell and singer Mary Coughlan.

It is the people closest to an addict who help them through, and Kenny will no doubt be calling on more help from his mum and his stunning girlfriend Sharon. The Olympic medallist is dating Paddy Power PR representative Sharon McHugh; the couple having gone public with their romance at the People of the Year Awards at the Citywest Hotel last September.

Clondalkin native Kenny, who has been boxing for Miami in the new World Series Boxing competition, has revealed how his mother's intervention helped him gain control of his excessive drinking.

An emotional Kenny revealed, "The last bender I was on probably lasted a week until I came home. As usual, my mother was worried sick. I was in the bed and she came in and got me out of bed. I was dying, but she said, 'Come on Kenny, I want to go for a spin with you in the car'.


"I got into the car and she brought me up to the graveyard in Tallaght. She buried two sons years ago when they were only young. She's on her knees looking up at me and she goes, 'Look, this is the way you're going, Kenny, if you don't stop drinking. I don't want you to go before me.' I just said, 'Jesus, I'll have to stop'. That was the last time I drank," Kenny admitted.

Maura, who was in audience, said: "There are two Kenneths. There was the nice Kenneth when he wasn't drinking and there was the different Kenneth when he was drinking. But we had to do something to stop it and get him out of that."

The boxer is back in Dublin to defend his national senior light-heavyweight title, which he has held for the past 10 years.

Sober for more than five months now, he intends to fight at the Olympic Games in London 2012, and said. "I could see myself in four or five years with the Olympics having slipped through my hands because of the gargle sitting in front of me."

Colin O'Driscoll believes anyone can test if their drinking is in danger of putting their health at risk : "If someone is drinking every night, they can test themselves by deciding to stop for three weeks, to see if they can do it. If they are not drinking every night, yet are concerned with the amount they drink on a night out, they can test themselves by saying they will only have three drinks the next time they are out. One of the best things a young person who relates to Kenny's story can do is pick up the phone and talk to someone confidentially."