Friday 23 March 2018

End of an era as Offaly star McNamee retires from inter-county football


Offaly's Niall McNamee. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Offaly's Niall McNamee. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

One of the finest forwards of the modern era, Niall McNamee, last night ended a 15-year career with the Offaly footballers when he announced his retirement.

McNamee, 31, made his debut for the Faithful County in a championship match against Laois on May 25, 2003 at Portlaoise, just 11 days before the start of his Leaving Cert. His last game was a qualifier defeat against Cavan on June 25.

The Rhode clubman had taken time to consider his playing future and has now decided to step away from the inter-county game he graced as a stylish scoring forward who became a talismanic figure for Offaly.

Behind the football, McNamee battled a gambling addiction which was destroying his life.

In 2012, he first revealed his story of struggle to the Irish Independent. Since then McNamee has rebuilt his business career and has used his experience for the benefit of people suffering with the same addiction.

His decision to quit came via Instagram: "Only seems like yesterday that I made my debut. It's been a huge honour to represent and captain my county.

"The time has now come to step away. I want to say a huge thank you to all of my team-mates that I've been lucky to take the field with down through the years. Thank you to all the managers who showed faith in me.

"I've been extremely lucky to fulfil a lot of my childhood dreams and it is truly with a heavy heart that I call it a day. A massive thank you to all the faithful supporters for your support throughout the years both on and off the field. Finally a big thank you to my parents, brothers and sister and my girlfriend for always being there in the good days and the not so good days. I couldn't have done it without you all."

McNamee bows out of Offaly with praise for his sterling commitment and performances for his county whose last bid for major glory ended in defeat to Dublin in the 2006 Leinster football final.

McNamee gave his all in the Faithful County colours but never achieved the success his talent deserved, despite the best efforts of a succession of managers and players in the last 15 years.

Truly he was a player of which it could be said he would get a place on any team in the country.

Since 2011, he changed his life around and has stayed on the recovery path from a gambling addiction.

In the last six years he has built a sportswear company 'Twelves', and become a Player Engagement Officer with the Gaelic Players Association. McNamee is also an advocate for those who need help to break the chain of gambling addiction which is become a big problem at all levels of Irish society.

In recent months he had been questioning his motivation to continue on for another year with Offaly, given the huge demands on time and focus for county players.

In signing off, he thanked the GPA for the assistance they gave him in his off-field career. He added: "I pray that the glory days return to Offaly in the not-too-distant future."

Irish Independent

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