Wednesday 25 April 2018

Sporting icon has never hidden his long struggle with inner demons

Sporting legend Paul McGrath in his heyday representing the Republic of Ireland
Sporting legend Paul McGrath in his heyday representing the Republic of Ireland
Paul McGrath was arrested in Tullamore, Co Offaly, at the weekend

Daniel McDonnell Soccer Correspondent

WHEN Paul McGrath hits the headlines for the wrong reasons, the instinctive reaction is sadness.

Since the 53-year-old moved his life to Wexford a decade ago in a bid to find some calm and a fresh start, there's always been a sense that no news is good news.

The Dubliner  has spoken more eloquently about himself than any commentator can and has recounted the struggle with his demons in almost painful detail.

It is too early to draw conclusions about the incident that allegedly occurred in Tullamore over the weekend. The details will become clear when he appears in court later this month. But the prospect of one of Ireland's greatest ever sportsmen going through that process, and the inevitable attention that will come with it, is a source of concern.

His friends have pointed out that the price of his profile is that every small aberration is scrutinised. It is hard for such a legendary figure to go unrecognised so if he errs, it tends to become public knowledge.

The perpetual battle with alcoholism has defined his life post-football. When he turned 50, he acknowledged that he couldn't continue drinking. "It's killing me," he said, at the time.

By his own admission, successful dry periods have been followed by a fall back into old ways.

In January, he gave an interview to Ryan Tubridy on 2FM where he denied that he was back drinking, but alluded to a bad Christmas. Fans who heard McGrath speak contacted the broadcaster to express concern about his well-being, typical of the protective feelings which Irish people have for an iconic figure.

Two weeks ago, he was asked if he had ever considered going into football management. His response? "When I learn how to manage meself," he joked on Twitter.

It demonstrated the self-awareness that was evident in his superb autobiography, where a staggeringly honest picture of his darkest days was painted.

His biography on Twitter is short, with a simple message that reads: "One day at a time." Chances are, it will always be that way. All we can do is wish him well.

Irish Independent

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