The last time I spoke with Pat Gilroy

Pat Gilroy stepped down as the Dublin GAA manager last week. I take my sombrero off to him as he brought the glory days back to the city. He went about his business calmly and steadily and he has to be commended for an outstanding few years work.

The last time I spoke to Pat was when he told me I was no longer involved in the senior inter-county set up with Dublin. It was October 2008.

I was working as a sales rep for Guinness out in Meath and Cavan and was just after walking out of a pub in a sleepy town called Oldcastle. The dry winter evenings were setting in. It was close to 4pm and already the sky was darkening. You could smell the turf fires being lit in cozy little homes. It smelt like Christmas was just around the corner.

Pat Gilroy

My phone rang and I saw Pats name pop up. I knew the news was going to be bad. I had been to a fitness test the week previous and I had struggled. I had been drinking and smoking again and was out of shape.

To be honest I didn’t think I could take another few years on the bench, but if Pat was to tell me I would be given a chance to show how good I was, then I was willing to roll up the sleeves once more.

I had spent three years as a sub for Dublin. Three years training 6 days a week to be a sub. Three years giving every ounce of sweat and blood I had to try and break into the team. Being number two to Stephen Cluxton is no insult, but I always believed I was better. I always thought if I was given a chance then I would pull off saves which would go down in the annals of brilliance and supreme performance. I stayed involved because I believed.

Me with my beautiful mother and three sisters with the Leinster trophy in 2007

In those three years I never drank except for a blow out for a month or two from October to November, but even then you would still be training and watching what you were eating to a degree.

That all changed when Pat Gilroys call came through.

–          Hi John, I just wanted to call to tell you that you are no longer part of the squad. The reasons are that your kick out is inconsistent and we believe that your decision making is suspect at times. As a shot stopper you are probably the best in the county, but I am afraid overall that you are not consistent enough.

–          That’s cool Pat, I understand. I had a feeling this call would be of luck with everything and I hope you bring the All-Ireland home.

And that was it. More or less. There was some fluff either side of this but all in all, that was the end of it.

I had to commend him on his honesty and lack of bush beating.

I think it was this that got Dublin back into the championship winning mode. (Honesty…not dropping a sub keeper!)

He was honest and direct and kept things inherently simple and clear. This allowed the team to work together and no one man was above anyone else. This work ethic, while attempted while I was involved, was taken to another level. And Sam came home. (Sam is the name for the Championship trophy)

This phone call began a binge that would only really end six months later in Sydney Australia. The shackles were off. My reasons to drink, indulge, party and consume were so blatant and obvious that they screamed at me every day I woke up

–          You are no longer with the Dubs man…fuck work, get stoned and play golf

–          You are no longer with the Dubs man…fuck club training, get into town and go on the session

–          You are no longer with the Dubs man…fuck everything, get a big bag of pills and get mashed up this weekend

–          You are no longer with the Dubs man, fuck the lot of it, let’s go on the piss this morning, get some coke for the avo and go on a real drinking session.

It was my excuse to consume, drink and indulge. My work performance suffered. My interest in life seemed to suffer. I wasn’t interested in much save who was going on the session and when they were going. Drink, drugs and the rest flowed.

It wasn’t long before I was depressed with life in Ireland. I got in touch with my old buddy Fran Daly living in Australia and he said he might be able to hook me up with some work. I thought to myself that there was no other option. I couldn’t face staying around. Three months after being dropped from the squad I was on a plane to sunny Sydney.

It was here where I could drink and party on with the new reality of life far, far away. So I carried on…drinking heavily, getting in the pills, smoking my brains out. I could carry on the lie here. I could continue the madness and people didn’t know where I was coming from or really why I was there. I was there because I couldn’t face living in Dublin, knowing I wasn’t on the Dubs. I was there so I could blitz myself, numb myself and drink myself to oblivion and no one would pull me up.

I often wonder what it  must be like for pro’s who finish up, or inter county superstars who have to hang up the boots or who are told to.

It must crush.

I mean, look at Gazza (former England soccer superstar Paul Gascoigne)

It is hard to adapt to life away from the top performance routine. It is a hard nugget to swallow that you just aren’t good enough anymore. And if you have an addictive, expressive personality, then you better watch out. You better understand that the rails might be about to be come off.

The rails first came off when I was 17. I had been scouted by Oldham Ahtletic, then in the Premier League. The scout was talking about possible moves to Everton FC in the future. He was extremely excited and so were the club. I had only been playin in goals for 4 years but was on the brink of a professional contract.

What the scout didn’t realise was that I was two months too old to play U/18 the following year. When the birth certificate went through he called me up to break the news to me that I was surplus to requirements.

I still remember how my world caved in after that phone call. My heart sickened and I knew everything would be different from the way I had hoped.

The drinking, hash and old school “e’s” were consumed in heavy doses to deal with the pain. But I still had GAA to bring me back in….the Dublin minors, then under 21’s kept me from committing too heavily to this life of excess.

But something died inside.

But unlike then when I had parents and other high performance sports to ground me, after being dropped from the Dublin panel, I only had myself to fix myself. No football, no commitments, no hope for the future.

It took me another six tortuous months of remodelling my brain, my attitude and myself before I was able to deal with myself as a human again. I had become a twisted, cynical, paranoid and angry wreck of a man. My normal, good and happy self was buried behind a drunken, drugged up animal. But I got my head together over time. And here I am…..

-The one and only Sober Paddy.

So thank you Pat. Thanks for winning the All-Ireland again. And thank you for sending me on one of the heaviest binges of my life which has resulted in me being the strongest, most creative and happiest I have been in my life.

The drinks are on me when I see you next.


18 thoughts on “The last time I spoke with Pat Gilroy”

  1. Great read Lenny. Hope all going well in South America. You still got a hell of a lot closer to the dream with the dubs than the rest of us dreamers and that is too your credit. Keep going with the blogging. The articles are awful well written. Best of luck.

    Donal Murphy

    • Cheers Donal,
      All is good in Guatemala here! Glad you are enjoyin the reads. A lot has changed now from the days swanning around Nessans ha? Sure I had a good go at it and well, what more could I do.
      Hope all is well in Landan and the porter is not flowing too freely!!

  2. sweet article…
    i find it fascinating how we learn more form the hard times than the good times, but its only when you come through the bad times that you realise what it thought you.
    : D
    and as donal says, you got closer to the dream with the dubs than the rest of us dreamers…
    fair dues.
    probably the best shot stopper in the country?? if didnt get a noise bleed everytime ( i.e. both times) i ventured up past the halfway line i probably coulda stuck a few past you… ha ha.

    i was actually surprised that you even made that flight to oz with the nights shenanigans preceeding it… ha ha
    the two things you need to board the flight, ticket and passport, 50% chance of forgetting one of them, ha ha ha.
    well written articles indeed, have you ever read shantaram ?? best book ever, started reading that on my way to india. at least is didnt land there too green, and had some sense about me, but i still think anjuna beach is like a vortex for partying, spits you out afterwards and your left wondering WTF ?? ha ha ha.

    being a pool fan would you have worn a pool jersey underneath your everton jersey should you have made it there ??

    keep up the inspiration and optimism, its infectious and funny.

    • I was kinda surprised I made it to Oz meself. Funny thing is that these days you dont even need the tickets! All you need is the passport…that was a messy night indeed which capped off a messy few months.
      Keep the comment coming in G man….good to hear your slice on life. Shantaram was read many moons ago – great book alright…he is a fine writer and the story reads very true.
      My favourite but of wisdom from it was “not to do the right thing, for the wrong reason but to do the wrong thing, but for the RIGHT reason”

      If the Toffees had signed me up I would have declared undying love for Everton FC, kissed the badge andall the rest!! LFC..who are they???

  3. I’m always so impressed with your honesty in your writings John. It’s all out there for people to take as is. I commend you for being able to write like that. I am so very happy for you that you ploughed on through the crazy nights and days of your life, that through good, bad, pressured and hard times you have come out the other side of the wilder days. You have patted yourself down, straightened up and spread the word to begin helping others. You inspire me and that is wonderful. You inspired me since I was a little thing clingin on to your leg and screaming at ye for attention. And all the while you were probably dealing with shite hangovers. I remember the first time I saw you on pills and it made me shake and my eyes welled up. I remember looking at you feeling you weren’t you and that to me you looked like a monster. I wasn’t even that young but I was very much afraid of your face that was chewin itself and your eyes that were so incredibly big. And you kept apologizing and I felt so let down. I just couldn’t understand why you needed any kind of drug be it alcohol or other.
    I’m so happy that you’re the pure version of yourself now. Who is so very creative and funny.
    Keep up your fantastic writings. I love these insights.
    The only reason you were any use in goal was the fact I fed you with 10penny bags of jellys! Man I use to feel so important!

    • Lookin forward to you writing your own stuff A. With no style angel around, perhaps you should get you Living in London one up. Would love to hear mofre of your rabblings!!

      I am glad you enjoyed the readings and there are plenty more to come.

      I think I rememberr that night, we were in Pravda. I think I got thrown out or nearly did for flying backwards into crowds off some bar stools. I remember I couldnt control my jaw, and that I kept saying that I didnt mean to take the pill, but that I was so drunk I just did it!

      ANd it was down to your training skills in the back field in BinnEadair and all them sweets that got me so far…be very sure of that!!!

  4. just been reading your blog john.had the privilege of seeing you playing for dublin and can only admire your honesty in your writings. keep the blogs coming and take care.

    • Cheers Beego – I was one of the lucky ones who had the honour of fulfilling a childhood dream and a team that I still love and support. Glad you admire the honesty – you can be guaranteed that I will be honest at least!

  5. I just came across this article and simply could not believe what I was reading. It’s just utterly bizarre. You played a bit of GAA for an average inter-county team at amateur level yet you seem to have the illusion that you were a potential star in the professional game that was shafterd by your own inabilities. You pointlessly wasted 3 years training ‘6 days a week’ to warm the bench, that in itself is probably a good indication of madness. Why would you do that, why waste your days and youth dedicating yourself to an amateur sport with absolutely no reward, satisfaction or gratification? Your potential life as a football player in England is indeed a genuine hard luck story, that may have been tough but you were young so not the end of the world once you had good people around you. What you have stated transpired is just beyond idiotic. You had a decent job and a responsiblity to your employers (who Im sure accommodated your training schedule) yet you completely stitched them up and went on the lash. You need to realise that GAA is nothing more than an amateur sport followed by a completely insignificant portion of the worlds population. It is a nothing sport that some how convinces young athletic men to give up their valuable time and body for free, nada, nothing. To suggest that being dropped by Pillar was the catalyst to you becoming a drink and drug addict is simply denial. I’m not one to cast dispersions, I don’t know you personally but it seems your problems lie a lot deeper than realising your GAA career was over. Maybe you should have applied yourself (and encourage today’s youth) to apply themselves elsewhere and not on a GAA pitch?

    • Couple of quick things – you cast aspersions, not dispersions, whatever that is supposed to mean. The article refers to being dropped by Pat Gilroy, not Pillar Caffrey. I never suggested that he was responsible for me becoming a drink or drug addict. The news he brought me set off a chain reaction which resulted in serious binges and an unwinding of my abilities to function as a normal working human.

      This blog has almost 100 different posts on the subject of my story with drink and drugs and not one place do I blame anyone apart from myself for my troubles. I refer to the GAA in only a few blogs and there is no way you could have read much more than the above blog, or else you would have understood that much at least.

      You opinion of the GAA is one of someone who has never been involved in something which they dreamt about from a young age. To play to Dublin is the thing of dreams for some young men. It was for me. So with all due respect, might I say that you are talking out your arse when you refer to playing an amateur sport and not being rewarded being an act of lunacy.

      You try telling that to the winning All Ireland team each year.

      My problems are being taken care of day by day, but I think you need to have a look at your own short sightedness.

      • Thank you for approving the comment and taking the time to reply, it’s appreciated. Also thank you for pointing out my grammatical error, apologies!

        You say that my opinion of the GAA ” is one of someone who has never been involved in something which they dreamt about from a young age. To play to Dublin is the thing of dreams for some young men. It was for me. So with all due respect, might I say that you are talking out your arse when you refer to playing an amateur sport and not being rewarded being an act of lunacy.”
        I, like most Irish men, was heavily involved in GAA as a youngster, but you are right in that it was never my dream to represent my county at senior level. Where my issue lies is that young males should be encouraged to have other ambitions than playing for their county. Given what you did achieve on a sporting field, there is no doubt you would have made it if you applied yourself fully to a different sport. Out of interest was playing Irish league soccer ever an option to you or would you have even considered it at the time? From reading this article it just seemed to me that the game you loved all your life basically screwed you over and you reacted to that by going off the rails. I certainly wouldn’t have the mentality or patience to train 6 days a week and dedicate myself fully to see somebody else play in my position for a number of years and then be told I was dropped over a phone call. If that was the case I would apply myself somewhere else, be it in another sport or in my employment.
        You’re right I am shortsighted when it comes to issues such as the ones raised in this article, I suppose I don’t understand the addictive personality and excuse my ignorance. Thanks for the reply as I’ve gone on to read a lot on this website which will broaden my horizons no doubt.

        • Hey man,
          I’ve been offline so my replies come quite slowly! glad you have taken on board what I said – League of ireland was talked about, but there was no U/21 league back then and I got more involved in GAA around then (played U/21 for Dublin for 2 years)and didn’t have the time – Maybe I was crazy to spend so much time trying to get into the DUbs, but I am a bit nuts!!
          The whole thing which I am trying to get out in the open here is that alcohol is used by pretty much everyone, especially irish males, to express themselves. Some of us are not built like everyone else and all it takes is one thing to send you into an emotional meltdown which you then use to spiral out of control.
          My message is that it is cool to be sober if you want – there is a stigma attached to nearly everything in Ireland and I want to see us all grow as a people.
          Thanks for readin and chat again soon when I am back online (Cuba is shit for INternet)


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