Search icon


20th Jun 2016

Paddy McCourt speaks about the heartbreaking reason that he is not with the Northern Ireland squad

Darragh Murphy

Northern Ireland are currently enjoying the experience of a lifetime in France.

Michael O’Neill’s squad are in the running for a place in the knockout stages of Euro 2016 following their victory over Ukraine last week.

When O’Neill named his 23-man squad for the European Championships, there was one name whose omission raised questions when, in reality, Paddy McCourt had already ruled himself out of consideration.

Paddy McCourt 11/10/2014

McCourt, who has 18 caps for Northern Ireland, had been a part of every squad throughout the qualification campaign for the Euros but shortly after O’Neill revealed his 23-man list, it emerged that McCourt had requested that Luton Town terminate his contract.

The reason behind McCourt’s decision to put football on the backburner was the fact that he’d just learned that his wife would have to undergo surgery to have a brain tumour removed, following a shock seizure at Gatwick airport.

That surgery took place the day before the first ball was kicked in France and McCourt has since opened up on this difficult time of his life.

“When something like that happens, your only thought is for your family,” McCourt said in an interview with the Times. “My sole focus has been on Laura and our kids. That’s the kind of person I’ve always been, but it’s amazing how, when you’re in a situation like this, everything else becomes secondary.

“That would be no different if I had played every minute of every game in qualifying and we got to the final. As much as I would have loved to have been there with the lads if this hadn’t happened, the fact that it happened changes your perspective totally.”

Celtic v Norwich City - Pre Season Friendly

The former Celtic winger went on to explain how, once he found out about the need for surgery to remove his wife’s benign tumour, that his career took a back-seat and that everybody in the national team set-up understood his decision.

McCourt said: “I called Michael, explained what had happened and told him I wasn’t going to be available for the Euros. As much as he’s incredibly serious about his football, when I told him, he said, ‘Don’t even think about the Euros. Just be there for Laura and make sure she gets better.’

“Michael has been a very good friend to me over the years as well as a team-mate and now a manager. He asked me how I wanted him to handle it in terms of the media. I said I didn’t want to speak about it until I knew the operation had been successful. I knew he was asked the question, but he batted it off.

“I’m very grateful for that because we, and especially Laura, didn’t need the attention it would have created if he had said what was really happening.”

The 32-year-old Derry man wanted to wait until he had a positive update before he spoke to the media, and thankfully, he now has just that.

“It was absolutely nerve-racking,” he said. “But thankfully we were given the best possible news afterwards, which was that everything had been positive. Laura is now recovering and we’re told that in four to six months, please God, she will be completely back to normal.”


WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?