Dub Sub John Leonard ready to embark on new chapter with new book

John Leonard is done with football. Done with sport, in fact.
Dub Sub John Leonard ready to embark on new chapter with new book

It seems odd given he has just been named as the inaugural winner of the Setanta Sports Book of the Year for Dub Sub Confidential, a no-holds barred account of life balancing his role as understudy to Stephen Cluxton with the Dublin footballers and a serious drink and drug problem.

It was his dreams of playing for Dublin that first rescued him from the chemical and mental abyss, and they sent him back into it when those aspirations went unrealised, but there was a clear sense as he collected his award that this all marked the closing of that chapter in his life.

“Probably, if I was to stay in Ireland, which I don’t think I will, I would love to get into coaching or something like that,” he explained. “With goalkeepers, and maybe help lads who are going off the rails. I know Fás used to do some good courses, that kind of thing.

“I would still fancy my chances as a goalkeeper, even at senior club level. But there are so many other things going on in my life that I don’t have time for it really. Sport has to take a back seat now. It is part of my older life.”

Who knows what the future holds for him, or where it will unfold?

Leonard and his wife Serena still run their website, fivepointfive.org, videoing charities and the work they do and they have just launched a travel kids club which aims to inspire children that they can make a real difference in the world.

He’s already travelled the world, now more journeys beckon.

The writing will continue, too. He describes Dub Sub Confidential as a sports story with some drink and drugs and stuff thrown in, but he’s been taken aback by the amount of people who have told him they’d love to hear more about the “other stuff”.

Ketamine, opium, spliffs. All three get a mention in a short 15-minute chat and much more is mentioned in the book which he first contemplated nine years ago when he broke onto the Dublin panel but shelved when both he and Dublin failed to make the ultimate breakthrough.

He envisages an Irish version of Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’. “I have some real interest on stuff from the ‘90s from the other type of druggy scene and the rave scene,” he says before adding in a mock-Dub accent: “Rave scene man, ya know what I mean?” He’d love to write Cluxton’s story, if he ever returned his calls or emails, and he’s adamant that there are plenty of stories similar to his rattling about the GAA scene if only people could overcome the omerta of the inter-county panel.

“We need more GAA players to go and do Arts degrees, and not accounting or whatever it is,” he laughs. “Because if you get that potential to have a spliff here or there, we might have people who are more open-minded at the end of it.”

Leonard has always leaned towards the written word himself. He cites influences such as William Burroughs and Hunter S Thompson in the book’s jacket sleeve and has written poetry and reams of other material that never made it past a publisher’s first glance.

There’s loads more besides rattling around inside his head.

“Then there’s another one which would be kind of fiction. Someone then told me that’s already been done, it’s (the TV series) Dexter. This bloke who goes around and, probably because I was abused and you go ‘I wanna go and get revenge on these people’, the sort of anti-hero.

“The dark f***er who goes and kills people who’ve done bad things, so I’d love to do that kind of story set in Ireland. An Irish guy living down the country picking off paedophiles, but doing it in a really Irish way. There’s a couple of other things as well.”

Leonard was just nine when the paedophile priest Fr Ivan Payne first abused him and, while he describes writing about that and the other dark passages from his life as both therapeutic and traumatic, it was only when he handed the script over that some closure came.

“A lot of it was really just writing it. ‘Okay, what happened back then?’ So it was really like a process. I wasn’t finishing a chapter about Ivan Payne doing things to me and thinking ‘okay, ah, that feels great now it’s off my chest’.

“I don’t want to be too flippant about it. When the whole book is finished, and it is there in front of you, then you sort of think that is part of your life full stop and you can move on. At the time, though, it is a process when you are writing one or two thousand words a day.”

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