Maurice Shanahan offers a lesson to us all

Took your advice, Maurice Shanahan. Picked up the phone over the weekend and called a friend. Two, in fact. To see how they were. To say hello.
Maurice Shanahan offers a lesson to us all

One is in Australia and making a hell of a life for himself and his beautiful family but if it weren’t for the work opportunities there, he would never have left Ireland.

He misses home dearly. He never says it but you get the sense he feels out of mind when out of sight. Another buddy has had his difficulties and been off the radar a while. He made his apologies for being out of touch although none were sought. He’s busy working on a new business and the outlook is good.

Another pal I and a few others will meet for dinner later this week. What this man, this incredible man, has gone through you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. He’s struggling, put through the ringer of all ringers and yet remains an optimist. He’s never actively looked to talk – how many Irishmen in their mid-30s do – but what friends would we be if we allowed him to suffer in silence?

For all the great work being done by mental health groups and advocates, it’s an Everest they have to scale in a country where stoicism is the ruling junta. Maintaining that stiff upper lip is possibly our worst character trait followed by that age-old inability to take a compliment; two failings that are hardly mutually exclusive of one another.

On Friday, Shanahan accepted some praise. How elated his nearest and dearest must have been watching him collect his All Star last Friday evening. But taking those steps out onto the Convention Centre stage, he wouldn’t have been aware of the fantastic reaction to his interview with RTÉ Radio earlier that evening about his battle with depression.

Nobody but Maurice was going to tell his story but there were hints of it these past few months. His older brother and selector Dan was emotional when speaking to myself and another journalist at the All- Ireland semi-final press afternoon in August: “I think Maurice is his hardest critic; 2014 wasn’t a good year for Maurice Shanahan through this and that, we’ll put in like that.” Neither of us pushed Dan for more. It wasn’t the time nor the place nor the man. Members of the press took the same stance when Austin Gleeson made an oblique reference to his team-mate’s troubles in a group interview last month: “Maurice nearly carried us through a couple of games with his scoring. After the year he had the year before, we were absolutely thrilled for him.”

Those closest to Shanahan were encouraged by how his natural buoyancy returned towards the end of 2014. Manager Derek McGrath and Dan were instrumental in coaxing him back to playing but his girlfriend Katie was the one who helped him rediscover his true self. From closing and locking doors behind him, with the help of Katie he was opening them again.

If his fine league form didn’t indicate he was getting back on his feet, the humour but focus too in his interview alongside Dan on RTÉ’s Thank GAA It’s Friday magazine programme demonstrated he was making a full recovery. “I suppose Dan didn’t come good until he was 27,” said the 25-year-old before correcting himself, “I don’t mean ‘come good’ but until he was 27. He kept at it. I was up in the stand watching Dan and he was getting the back cut off him. But he kept going and I suppose that’s what I have to do as well. To know what Dan achieved after doing that, I said ‘why can’t I do it?”

Anyone who watched the Waterford-Dublin All-Ireland quarter-final in Thurles this year will remember the unseemly scenes at the end involving Shanahan and Liam Rushe. Defender Rushe was sent off for a moment of madness too few of us have escaped. What wasn’t really picked up was how Shanahan had antagonised the Dublin defender prior to the striking incident. It might not have been Shanahan’s proudest moment but those who knew what he had gone through couldn’t but be pleased by the brashness that had previously been absent.

The transformation of Shanahan in less than a year has been phenomenal. His story is just as heart-warming and encouraging as Noel McGrath’s return to the Tipperary jersey after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. In Pauric Mahony’s absence, Shanahan took over the mantle of free-taking with a consummate ease that belied his previous difficulties. On his own so often in the full-forward line, he became a towering wrecking ball.

The vagaries of the inter-county game offer no guarantees but Shanahan appears to be on the type of footing that will see him right whatever comes his way. That he can speak openly about his ordeal is a triumph in itself and is already benefitting others.I can substantiate that. Thanks, Maurice. Thanks for the reminder to be a friend.

RELATED: Maurice Shanahan reveals extent of struggle against depression

Kingdom’s relentless fixtures list

So, after much fuss and fluster, Dingle needn’t have bothered training away while keeping an eye on Nemo Rangers.

Because of the vagueness in the wording of a Munster Council rule, Killarney Legion will take a spin down the N22 on Sunday to face the Cork champions.

At least Legion don’t face the prospect of having to emulate Portlaoise, and avoid what happened to Stradbally by having to win a provincial game a day after claiming a county title.

All the same, Legion could face quite the pile-up if they beat Steven O’Brien’s side this weekend. It would mean four games in as many weeks, five in the space of six if they were to go win a Munster title as the provincial winners face an All-Ireland quarter-final across the Irish Sea in the middle of December.

Still, nothing can be compared to the gauntlet Bryan Sheehan and the St Mary’s men on the South Kerry team have run these past couple of months. Including the All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin, Sheehan has played seven successive weekends. That will increase to eight with a Munster intermediate semi-final next Saturday, nine the following weekend when South Kerry square up to Legion again and, should St Mary’s beat Corofin, a 10th on November 28 or 29 in a provincial final against Carrigaline or Oola.

Aussies in a New York state of mind

In Croke Park tomorrow morning, Ireland manager Joe Kernan names his 23-man International Rules squad, where he’s set to confirm the prospect of captain Bernard Brogan linking up in an All-Star winning full-forward line with Conor McManus and Aidan O’Shea.

Around about the same time, the Australians will be settling into New York on what has been described as a training week culminating with a practice game against an Irish-American side in Rockland this Saturday before they fly here.

Now we know why the Australians were so intent on staging a test in the Big Apple this year. Clearly, the prospect of travelling to Ireland on its own wasn’t as big a motivation for the AFL players as a few days in New York to boot. Knowing their coach Alastair Clarkson who won his third consecutive AFL Premiership with Hawthorn this year, it won’t be all fun and games but it’s obvious Australia are on something of a jolly.

Their stay-over in the US indicates the AFL weren’t really serious about making the International Rules a showcase affair there. That should have become abundantly clear last year when AFL operations manager Mark Evans suggested the game might be staged in New York’s Central Park even though there is no stadium there.


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