Kerry football legend Aidan O’Mahony says family saved him when he ‘hit rock bottom’

“I was probably starting to creep into a dark place myself and I wasn’t in a good place and letting all those things, starting to snowball in, and I wasn’t dealing with it well.”

Aidan O’Mahony on Dancing With The Stars with his dance partner Valeria Milove

Garda Aidan O'Mahony

GAA legend Aidan O’Mahony© SPORTSFILE

Eugene MastersonSunday World

Kerry GAA legend Aidan O’Mahony has again opened up about how he had to seek help after a mental health crisis.

The five-time All-Ireland winner, who also lit up TV screens when he won Dancing With The Stars in 2017, says he hit rock bottom in 2010.

Aidan (42), who is married with two children and works as a garda in Tralee, recalls becoming very depressed after a series of incidents.

The first centred on allegations he over-dramatised a slap in the face he got during a game in 2008, which resulted in his opponent being sent off.

O’Mahony was working as a garda in Cork city at the time and admits he suffered a huge backlash from the general public there.

He had previously been at the centre of an initial doping scandal, when a banned steroid was found in his system – but he was later exempted as the substance is found in asthma inhalers, which he uses.

“When you’re an asthmatic all your life and you’re going through hoops trying to make it in the sport and you finally get there and it comes back to bite you then being an asthmatic,” he recalls in TG4 documentary Laochra Gael.

“Going into work and trying to explain yourself, that it was an inhaler and you’re having to write an email to send up through the channels, ‘cos it could affect your work and stuff.

“I was probably starting to creep into a dark place myself and I wasn’t in a good place and letting all those things, starting to snowball in, and I wasn’t dealing with it well.”

The Rathmore man also suffered from depression after being left out of several games by Kerry, and was losing enjoyment from playing.

“My life was like a routine where there was no enjoyment. I wasn’t seeing the good in sport, I was very distant from my family. I wasn’t a nice person to be around at the time. I wasn’t enjoying work, it was just like a routine.”

He remembered driving in his car and breaking down in tears.

“I was at home and just in a dark place and my family had seen it,” he recollects. “They had probably seen it in the years and months coming up to it, sitting at home at the breakfast table with my parents.​

“It was like the moment I realised I needed help. My sister Nora came down, who is my godmother, and she is always very close to me and she knew I needed a lot of help.

“I needed to step away from reality, society, Everything that happened externally over the years had crept in and I had a decision whether I wanted to go down a dark path or go and get help about it.”

Nora drove Aidan to the Aiséirí rehabilitation centre for treatment.

“I went on that journey to Aiséirí and I didn’t look back,” he says.

He adds that he has since become a mental health advocate and finds gym and physical fitness helps him.

“I was very fortunate to have a loving family, who were able to see a person in a broken state,” he notes. “That helping hand was given to me and I took it.” ​

Fellow Kerry great Kieran Donaghy praises Aidan for addressing his situation.

“There were a few of us aware,” he says. “I went up to visit him at one stage with a few of the other players. We were aware. It was a tough time. That was the first time we would have said ‘this is far more than we thought’.

Aidan explains he was not able to deal with things but during eight weeks of treatment he realised what was good about life, especially family and support structure.

If you have been affected by this story, you can contact the Samaritans on freephone 116123 or email jo@samaritans.ie.

Laochra Gael – Aidan O’Mahony TG4 Thursday 9.30pm.

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