The Shape I'm In: Alan Quinlan, ex-Munster and Ireland rugby player

"My mental health is very important to me"

EX-MUNSTER and Ireland rugby player Alan Quinlan has a whole new appreciation for the work of sports journalists since he retired in 2011.

Now a rugby analyst, working on TV and radio and writing a column, he is hugely enjoying his new trade, though he admits it has been a steep learning curve.

“It was a tough transition,” he says. “I was a player for 14 to 15 years — it’s a big change when you come out of the game. But I am enjoying it — it keeps me connected to the game. I don’t feel like it’s work.”

The downside is the erratic schedule.

“That’s one of the challenges — trying to manage my schedule, know where I’m going, waiting for phone calls and emails. But I feel like I’m doing an apprenticeship and I’m learning all the time.”

Quinlan, 39, has spoken openly in the past about his anxiety-related depression and is an ambassador for Lean On Me, a mental health campaign. Over the years he has learned to manage his anxiety.

“How you look after yourself is very important. Also to be able to seek help and put a plan in place,” he says.

Separated from his wife, model Ruth Griffin, their son AJ, was born in 2009. And in what seems to be a case of like father, like son, AJ is already showing a strong interest in sport.

“He loves playing football and rugby and kicking the ball, he loves being involved jumping around the place,” says the Tipperary man.

* Alan Quinlan is an ambassador for DeCare Dental Insurance Ireland. For details see or call 1890 -130 017 

What shape are you in?

I’d like to think I’m OK. I like to do some running and swimming and do some weights in the gym — I try to go a couple of times a week. I still have aches and pains from the rugby, going to the gym helps me manage that. I try to stay pretty fit.

Do you have any health concerns? 

Not really. My elbows give me trouble. I dislocated both of them. I’m at the age where I’m concerned about my health. I would go to the doctor if I wasn’t feeling well. My mental health is something I am aware of too — it’s very important to look after that.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I try to eat a low-fat, high-protein, high-carb diet. So I try to keep saturated fats — deep fried foods — out of the diet as much as I can.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

To go to the cinema and have chocolate and popcorn. Also a bag of chips would be a real treat. And I like biscuits with a cup of tea. I have a sweet tooth so I have to be careful — I got into good habits throughout my career.

What would keep you awake at night? 

The erratic schedule I have. If I’ve a busy couple of days coming up it would be on my mind a bit. If I’m relaxed going to bed, if I’ve things in order and I’m organised I’m fine. If I’m not organised I tend to over-think things.

Who would you like to invite to your dream dinner party?

Barack Obama, Steven Gerrard — I’m a Liverpool fan — Roy Keane and Ronan O’Gara and Pat Shortt.

What is your favourite smell? 

Lavender comes to mind.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

My cauliflower ears and I’d like to change a few wrinkles.

When is the last time you cried?

When my little boy AJ started school in September.

What is the trait you least like in others?

Bad manners — it really irritates me. I like being nice and polite to people.

What trait do you least like in yourself? 

I am a bit indecisive at times.

Do you pray?

I normally try and pray. If I don’t fall asleep, I might often say a prayer. I don’t go to church regularly.

What would cheer up your day? 

Seeing my son — and knowing that everything is OK with my family.


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