Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Dublin GAA star praised for inspirational talk

GAA fans across the locality were treated to an interesting and encouraging presentation from six-times All-Ireland winner and one of the greats of the modern-day Gaelic games, Philly McMahon when the Dublin senior player visited Crossmaglen Rangers GFC on Thursday evening.

Philly delivered a deeply personal and inspirational account of his life and the challenges faced by young people growing up in Dublin’s inner city and how the GAA became his lifeline and paved the way for a successful career both on and off the field.

Having enjoyed a successful sporting career with Dublin county, his club Ballymun Kickhams, and an established businessman, Philly enthralled the audience of over 200 as he recalled his early years, the ‘First Half’ – growing up in Ballymun, which was ravished with high unemployment, overcrowding in the infamous ‘Ballymun Flats’ and how drugs were ‘rampant’.

He reflected on one occasion when he was seven years old and he followed his big brother John to a local park. John, a young teenager was drinking alcohol, smoking and dabbling in drugs and Philly went home and told his parents what he had witnessed. He said he already knew at that young age this was not a road he would take and he would put his whole energy and focus into playing football with Ballymun Kickhams. 

Philly paid tribute to Dublin legend, Paddy Christie and his fellow players at Kickhams for their efforts with the young players: “Paddy’s belief and dedication paved the way for success for myself and others and today we see six Ballymun Kickhams players part of the Dublin squad.” 

He revealed how he visits Mountjoy jail twice weekly as part of a campaign of drug awareness, working closely with the inmates to show them that there is a different path from drug taking or selling drugs and, following release, that they can make better choices and avoid re-offending.  And he pointed out how beneficial sport can be in keeping a young person grounded and focused, raising awareness of fitness and health, and thus helping them resist the lure of drugs.

Philly is now fronting an anti-drug campaign, encouraging young people to stay away from drugs and has become a role model in his home area of Ballymun.

Turning attention to his family’s very personal experience, he recounted how his brother died as a result of drug taking at the age of thirty-one.

“He only got to play the game until the 31st minute and he had so much more of the game to play,” he said.  “I’m in the second half now and I’m going to keep playing and playing until the final whistle, helping people along the way from all walks of life,” he said.

Following his inspiring talk, Philly spent time with some of the audience, chatting and posing for photographs.