Tuesday 15 October 2019

Watch: Jon Walters opens up on 'triple-whammy' of tragedy in hugely emotional Late Late Show appearance

Former Ireland star Jon Walters on the Late Late Show - Photo credit: RTE
Former Ireland star Jon Walters on the Late Late Show - Photo credit: RTE

Tony Considine

FORMER Ireland international Jonathan Walters has opened up about the tragic “triple-whammy" that befell his family last year in a highly emotional interview on Friday’s Late Late Show.

It was the latest in a series of searingly honest interviews that the 35-year-old, who was renowned for his on-field courage, has given in recent years and which have opened up a debate on how men deal with tragedy in their lives.

Walters’ Dublin-born mother, Helen, passed away from bowel cancer when the footballer was an 11-year-old boy and he has always dedicated his Ireland career in her honour.

After opening up on the impact her death had on him two years ago, the player’s family suffered another loss last year when his older brother James passed away. A clearly emotional Walters went on the explain how that was just the first in a series of blows experienced in the aftermath of his death.

"In the past year it’s been hard, we've had other things going on with the family as well and I'm still coming to terms with it so it's not just my Mum," he said, blinking back tears. 

"See in the photo you saw my brother as well, he was 35, the same age as I am now and he passed away last year.

Jon Walters scored 14 goals for the Republic of Ireland (Tony Marshall/PA)
Jon Walters scored 14 goals for the Republic of Ireland (Tony Marshall/PA)

"I’d rather say it and get it out,  you just come to terms with it. I was just beginning to speak out about Mum and then we were on pre-season in Cork with Burnley and I got a call off my brother with the bad news," he told host Ryan Tubridy before having to stop and gather himself.

"What can you do, I went home. You know what, my wife’s here and I don't really speak about it a lot but I want to tell the story and I... I'll open up to you randomly. It makes me feel better.

"So my brother passed away and  I went back into Burnley the next day to train and then the same day, the day after my brother, my wife lost a baby."

After another gap during which a visibly shocked Tubridy gave his sympathies, Walters composed himself and continued. 

"I threw myself back into work which is a very common thing to do but at the same time… there was a triple whammy with my daughter... we find out my daughter has scoliosis as well.

"I'm okay with it but it's when I speak about it, that's when I struggle with it. I lost James who's 35. Then obviously dropped a bit of a bombshell there because no one knew about my wife apart from me and her. Then my daughter in the same week... 

"I had help from the the club doctor at Burnley and Alan Byrne through Ireland. You know to talk through finding out she had scoliosis. And you have to arrange your brother's funeral all at the same time.

"My wife is great. I threw myself into things, we organised my brother’s funeral and went through that and you go back into work, you just carry on.

"And then I'll just compound it, I'm at an age where I'm 35 playing football. I've got three kids, Scarlet, Sienna and Eli, Scarlett's the one with scoliosis, Eli's mental on the football.

"I went on loan to Ipswich at the same time so Eli could see me play because he's getting to that age and within two weeks, I ruptured my Achilles. Ipswich is four or five hours from the house so I took it as a sign that I was meant to be home, I’m meant to be with my family and on the back of that I’ve retired."

Earlier in the interview, which has had a hugely positive reaction, Walters had elaborated on the impact losing his mother at such a young age had on him and how speaking out about it had been a huge help in finally dealing with the trauma.

"I find it quite uncomfortable to speak about but I did an interview a couple of years ago which had a great response," he explained.

"People from 20 years olds to 70 years olds got in touch with me thanking me for speaking about something like that. It made them feel that they can (talk about it) so they thanked me for sharing.

"Mum passed away when I was 11, we only found out she was sick a couple of weeks before… 

"Just like my little boy is to my wife and my two girls are to me, I was my Mum’s little boy, she was my world.

"Then you go off to secondary school and you’re sort of lost in a way. It becomes a taboo subject. I signed for Blackburn when I was 15/16 and moved home so you go off on your own and I was really still a little boy, I was still lost.

"You don't know anything. I’m not the only one to go through that, lots of kids go through the same. So she meant a lot to me and it's only really in the last couple of years you speak about it more, it became a bit of a taboo subject.

"It’s just…I think it’s changing now. I try and get me kids to discuss it with me. We’re all guilty of it but the more you discuss it the better it is.  

"So I did an interview with Henry Winter a couple of years ago and he caught me by surprise. I’d never really spoken about my Mum but he caught me off guard and I sort of broke down to him.

"I went through my whole career, was telling him things I was ashamed of, I went through everything and it was a big relief. On the back of it, I did a couple of other things and it made me feel great. So, you know I'm not any different to anyone else. It's great to speak about it."

Online Editors

The Left Wing - RWC Daily: Quarter-final fever hits as Ireland gear up for toughest test of all

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport