Philly McMahon opens up about brother's death from overdose

Philly McMahon spoke on the Late Late Show about his brother's death from a drug overdose, writes Denise O'Donoghue.

He said he feels it is important for him to be open about his experiences in order to help other people who have a family member with an addiction.

"For other people that have a family member that is an addict, it's ok to come out and say 'I'm not embarrassed, I shouldn't be embarrassed of somebody making the wrong choice'. I would have loved to see some Dublin footballer come out when I was growing up, to say 'do you know what, it's only a bad decision that your family member has made, don't be embarrassed about it'," he said.

"I felt that it was something people had over me. If I got into a row with somebody or had an argument with somebody that they would say 'your brother's a junkie' so I felt someone always had something over me. When I went into Dublin development squads or I always felt 'why am I the only one that has a drug addict brother'. That was quite tough, but it was really tough actually speaking about it.

"The first time [speaking about John] was at the Drug Policy Consultation. It's the first time I got emotional about speaking, being embarrassed about John, but it was something that I had to do because I do feel there's so many young people out there now that are feeling the same way. The more people that we get with profiles to speak about it the better."

The Dublin footballer also shared a story about a rival footballer using it on the pitch to hurt him.

"I was marking a guy and he felt that saying my brother overdosed from drugs and he was a junkie would affect my game. Ultimately it empowered me and I played a very good game that day," he said.

"We all make mistakes. He said it in the moment but I don't think he meant it but essentially John was with me when he said that to me."

He talked about how his brother John was introduced to heroin in Ballymun when he was just 14 years old.

"The family and myself thought he was around 16/17 and when we spoke to some of his friends to get some stories about him in the book we found out it was actually quite younger, it was around 14/15. The first time he took heroin was in a lift shaft in Ballymun where he was with two of the younger lads of the group - he used to hang around with an older group of lads.

"He was in the lift with two of the younger lads and an older guy, and the older guy said 'do you want a bit of this?' They said 'what is it?' and he said 'it's H'. They took it and they walked down the road thinking they had something like liquid hash, they didn't think it was heroin. That's essentially what I'm talking about, your environment leading to choices. He didn't really have much chances."

He said he heard many stories of drug dealers selling to young children in the area, but added the area has become much safer in recent years.

"Other stories that his friends were telling me, they would have had older guys walk down the blocks and they had tablets. It wouldn't matter what age you were, they would sell it to you. It's a lot different now, there's a lot of good in the area now."

By Denise O’Donoghue

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