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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2017-08-30 07:38:33

tatler man philly mcmahon


Sp or ts







“ ’m just very lucky to be part of a team at such an
hour. Five years earlier and if I was five years
older I probably wouldn’t have won any of them,”
says Philly McMahon, talking about his four All Ireland Wins. It’s
an interesting thought for a sportsperson to consider, the notion
that a Sliding Doors moment, a minute change in circumstances
or time of birth and things could have been different.
“When I first won in 2011 we hadn’t won it since 1995, so
there’s about 16 years in between that. You have to understand
that when you play a team sport there’s a lot of things that have
to come together to win an All Ireland. You can do your best but
if the rest of the team don’t have that attitude or don’t have that
drive or you mightn’t have the management... you just have to
have everything kicking together.”


This page:
McMahon with the
Sam Maguire Cup at
Leopardstown Racecourse,
Dublin, December 29 2016
Photo by Byrne/INPHO/

Some people think I’m pro
for decriminalisation, I
am because I want people
to understand that
anything would be better


Now aged 29, he’s undoubtedly one of the most successful This page: “It’s a really special sport because anybody from the
and recognisable faces of the sport and a well respected outside looking in, they wouldn’t realise that it’s an amateur
businessman – he’s also had success with his BeDo7 gyms Philly helps launch the sport for what we do. And it’s great that we can walk down the
and healthy food subscription service Fit Food. But you get the Healthy Clubs Project road and these kids can come up to us and talk to us and see
impression that everything kicking together is not something us in the public eye a lot more, on the streets. That’s great, you
Philly takes for granted, far from it. Perhaps nowhere is this Facing page: never see that in other sports like soccer.”
more obvious than in his social conscience.
McMahon celebrates with One thing you become aware of when talking to Philly is
He’s recently helped launch the GAA’s Healthy Clubs Project, the Sam Maguire Cup that while there’s a thoughtfulness and depth to the man,
a scheme that aims to support the physical and mental health of having beaten Kerry in the there’s no bullshit.
those in local clubs in everything from getting fit to education, GAA All Ireland Football
drugs and alcohol as well as youth development. Championship Final, “I always think that life is like a boomerang, so if you want
Croke Park, Dublin, certain things in life you have to give them first. I suppose I
“GAA clubs are known for having a sense of community in September 20, 2015 probably got the opportunity to do that the opposite way. My
them. Now they’re broadening that spectrum, helping people community helped me [become] who I am, supports me in my
realise now you can use a GAA club for a health aspect or Photo by Byrne/INPHO/ business and in my sport and now it’s time to give people the
maybe a mental health support network or focal point,” he REX/Shutterstock opportunity with the profile I have as a Dublin Gaelic footballer.”
says. I say that sometimes it can be easier to go to someone
outside the family circle for advice or help. As the winner of Irish Tatler Man’s Sport award in 2016 I got
to witness first-hand the effect of this profile. At the end of the
“You’re dead right, sometimes you feel a little bit more awards he was the person that nearly every young Dubliner in
comfortable talking to somebody that’s not maybe in the room wanted to shake hands with. I wonder does he feel a
environment of a hospital or... Ultimately it’s giving someone pressure to be a role model.
their air, making sure you’re a good listener and that you can
try and even point them in the right direction if you don’t have “I don’t think there’s any pressure, because I suppose I
the capabilities or support there and then.” didn’t initially play Gaelic football to be a role model so it just
came along with it. And yes, once you become a role model
This notion of community, of support and shaping of a and you have kids that look up to you and you’ve people in your
person is something Philly says he experienced growing up. community that look up to you you’ve got, then, expectations.
But I wouldn’t say they’re pressure expectations... to be honest,
“Ballymun has shaped me to who I am from a very young when you become a role model it’s not fake, it’s really who you
age. I’ve developed a lot of characteristics from my area and are. You’re just acting by yourself on who you are and you don’t
my community. And the funny thing is you don’t realise from change, that’s how people will see how authentic you are and
picking up a ball, kicking a ball off the wall, for having flats people will really respect you.”
there – [in] most communities kids would have to go out and
ask a friend to kick a ball with – I was very lucky I could kick a This year will see Philly embark on his next big project, Half-
ball off the flats.” time Talk, a charity he conceived and which he hopes to launch
later in 2017. The idea behind it is that in a match at half-time
The area he’s from might be one that people are tempted to the team will get a talking to about how things have been going
have preconceived notions of, Philly isn’t having any of that. and either make a decision to keep playing that strategy or to
change it. Philly says we can apply this idea to life.
“[It’s] seeing the problems the community has had and
listening to the stigma outside of the community; and to look “If you go in at half-time and you look at yourself and you
at all these problems we’ve had and I suppose use them as say, ‘I’ve had a good first half’ or ‘I’ve had a bad first half’. And
positives and shape them [to] who I am and try and help other then you say to yourself at half-time, ‘Right these are things I
people to realise that you can use them in a more beneficial, need to do to go out and win the second half or play better in
positive way in your life.” the second half,’” says Philly, adding later on, “Essentially what
we’re trying to do is get people to be more proactive in life, and
For him, the sport of GAA helps in a way too, because not wait until something significant happens in their life [such
players like him remain accessible in their community.

I always think that life is
like a boomerang, if you want
certain things in life you
have to give them first


I was very lucky I
could kick a ball
off the flats

as] in terms of

somebody passing away, a divorce, mental health, there’s a

To find out more about couple of ways you can have these half-time talks.” He says that’s he’s already looked to other countries for
Philly’s gym’s BeDo7 see The idea is that by getting people to think about reassessing inspiration to see what might work for us.
For information where their life is it will get people talking and sharing their “Can our policies be better, can we look at other countries
on Fit Food see stories. like Portugal who have decriminalised drugs and can we look into these ideas? Because when I went to speak to all of these
Follow Philly on “The half-time talk concept can be used for everybody and different associations, organisations, recovery centres, resource
Twitter @PhillyMcMahon again it’s about, if I tell somebody my half-time talk story that centres, there’s the same issues coming up over and over
they can actually tell somebody else so it’s a kind of a knock on again when I’m asking what do they feel that needs to be
effect.” changed, what’s wrong.”

For him it was a family tragedy that made him stop and pause. He stresses the need for more wide ranging supports,
“In my life, half-time talk happened in 2012 when I lost my education and not just for those with drug addiction but also
brother John who struggled with drug addiction for a lot of his their families. You can hear his frustration at how things are now.
life. When that happened I thought I was having a good first
half and actually when I started to, I suppose, up my standards “Some people think I’m pro for decriminalisation, I am
after 2012 I realised I could have a better second half.” because I want people to... I suppose I want people to
The charity itself is still in its development stages but Philly understand that anything would be better. Because what’s
says he already knows of two groups of people that he hopes happening at the minute is not working.”
to help with it.
“Initially we want to go after helping high risk youths and the On a governmental level he says that, “If we don’t change
other end of the spectrum is helping drug addicts. The both the law we’re not going to change the stigma.”
ends, at the beginning and at the end. We want to develop
programmes to help them, to target and focus on those two He continues: “Because it’s a crime in Ireland to take drugs,
areas.” like heroin, the people, the non addicts or society, are finding
Misconceptions about drugs and the stigma of drug addiction it hard to accept drug addicts back into society because they’re
are also areas Philly is keen to give some air to. threats. They’re seeing these people do drugs on the streets,
“A lot of people think you have to be from a certain area if they’re seeing the crime they commit and they’re essentially
you’re a drug addict, but you know it’s happening all over the saying, ‘I’m afraid of you’ and I’m not giving you any way back
country. It’s happening in urban and rural areas.” into society.”
From his perspective he goes on to say that he thinks the
way we are dealing with this issue in our country is wrong. On the subject of decriminalisation Philly says he is aware
“I suppose the important message is that first of all we’re of the misgiving people have on this.
doing things wrong because we have the third highest overdose
rates in Europe. There’s one person dies every day on the streets “It’s a new thinking on it. You have to understand there’s a
from a drug overdose. What we’ve done in the past hasn’t lot of people worried about, ‘Does it open the floodgates,
worked; we know now that telling our kids not to do drugs as does it normalise all other drugs.’ Not really, because the
an early intervention protocol is not working. It’s not saying we solution is that if somebody is caught on the street for personal
should tell our kids to go on drugs but our information has to use they will sit in front of a judge, a psychiatrist and a doctor and
change. Maybe it’s directing them in a way that we can show they should be given a recovery programme instead of being
them what is bad, what happens when you go on drugs and incarcerated in a prison which costs this country and the
what the negatives aspects are of it.” taxpayer even more money. It’s a lot to take in.”

He’s right, it is a lot to take in, but wherever we go next on
this issue, Philly says quite rightly, “At the end of the day the stats
and the rates of overdose are showing it’s not helping what
were doing.” ITM

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