David Meyler has opened up about his struggles in dealing with three miscarriages suffered by his wife in the space of a year.
The former Ireland captain, who was forced to retire last month, was away on international duty when one of the miscarriages occurred.
He was in his hotel room on the day of the Ireland-Wales match in March 2017 when he got the phone call from his wife Cally. However, he decided to stay for the game before returning home.
“It had started to happen naturally, coming out of her. An ambulance took her to hospital and I was in a hotel room," he told The Athletic for a feature about footballers' struggles dealing with grief in such a public and pressurised career.
My manager, Martin O’Neill, just said, ‘Go. You need to go.’ Roy Keane, the same. My father, the same. But I didn’t. I played that night, the full 90 minutes. Cally kept saying she was OK and she knew how much it meant to me to play for my country.
“I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to say. It’s not, ‘Everything will be OK’ if she is thinking, ‘What happens if we can’t have more kids?’ Knowing my wife, it might have been better if I had broken down at the time and we grieved together. That’s not me. It took me a while to cry.”
Meyler said he had a breakdown when he wasn't able to block out the grief any longer.
“Everything got on top of me and I exploded. I said to her, ‘I’m finished with football, I’m finished with everything.’ I just couldn’t deal with it.”
He began to turn to drink to forget his troubles.
The first miscarriage was a blur. The second felt the worst. The third was like having the life sucked out of you. It just made me question everything. I just felt so sad for Cally, she had been through so much.
“I drank excessively at weekends after a game. Everything started to affect me that bit more.”
Meyler said fellow Corkonian Brian Lenihan was the only footballer he told. When Hull's physio noticed something wrong with Meyler, he asked Lenihan. But for that intervention, Meyler would not have got help.
“What me and my wife went through… we endured a year other couples won’t go through in 50 years. I imagine she questioned me. Doubt set in with football. I was training, giving everything and getting nothing back. If I’m not involved, what is it I am doing?
“People thought I cared more about gaming, but I was desperate to play. All I ever dreamed of was being a footballer. Do you know how difficult that is? You are paid to be a footballer and not playing. It is a sense of worthlessness.”
David and Cally got married last year and were overjoyed to welcome their second child, Brody, earlier this year.