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28th Apr 2023

Ronan McNamee on how Tyrone and a phone call from Mickey Harte saved his life

Lee Costello

“I know I wouldn’t be alive, if I hadn’t have stayed with Tyrone.”

Ronan McNamee has won everything there is to win the Gaelic football, but if it wasn’t for Tyrone and a phone call from Mickey Harte, he might not even be here.

That’s the stark reality of McNamee’s situation back in 2016, when in the depths of depression, the defender considered taking drastic actions.

Despite being a regular in the county team, competing to win trophies, and seemingly in a great place, the tattooed titan was battling demons in his head that nobody knew about.

As an ambassador for this year’s Darkness Into Light campaign, the annual fundraising event organised by Pieta and supported by Electric Ireland, McNamee wanted to tell his story, to help others speak out.

Ronan McNamee

“It’s easy to hide it, I didn’t deal with it well. I had never addressed it, and only did address it because it was do or die time at this stage for me,” McNamee told the GAA Hour.

“A few of my teammates would have known, the likes of Danny McBride and Kevy Gallagher, they would have been travelling up the road with me from Strabane or the west of Tyrone.

“They would have known because I had stopped going to training for maybe three or four sessions, and I hadn’t said why I wasn’t going, although Beard knew – we call Mickey Harte the Beard by the way.

“He knew that I was struggling and I remember that he was ringing me, and I wasn’t answering him, I remember looking at my phone, and just not answering him, because I just thought I was going to start crying – I didn’t know what I was at, I was just in a completely awkward position.

Ronan McNamee

“I didn’t know how to address it right so I was planning on leaving the panel, because I felt that if I just left the country then you were leaving your problems behind, but obviously you were going to be taking them with you.

“I can see it that way now, but not at the time, I just wanted to get out of Aghyaran, away from everybody, because I just felt like I was a burden on everybody else.

“I remember Danny McBride texting me to say that he would lift me in the morning for training because he knew I wasn’t going to go and I was like ‘right, no problem.’

“So I had it in my head to get up and get out of the house before he would ring me to say that he was on his way so he couldn’t get me.

Ronan McNamee

“I ended up just driving for a couple of hours, just down to Donegal to my cousin’s house and just and stayed there. She knew something was wrong and wasn’t right. ”

It was when McNamee was hiding out in Donegal, that he received another phone call from Harte, and it proved to be a lasting memory for him.

“I have a really good memory in my head of me looking at my phone in her garden and Mickey Harte was ringing me. There are certain things that never leave you and that was one of them.

“He left me a voice recording and it was like ‘Give me a shout back, I don’t want you to come to training, I just want you to surround yourself with good people up here”.

Ronan McNamee

“It wasn’t about getting back to football, it was just about being surrounded with positive people, that’s what he was trying to get across, and he never pressed me to go back to training, it was just to come and let the boys see you.

“When I did go back up it was probably a massive part in helping me heal, the boys were saying things like ‘good to see you back, hope you’re alright’, and stuff like that.

“I know I wouldn’t be alive, if I hadn’t have stayed with Tyrone. I know that in my own head. It’s easy saying it, but I do know it in my own head.

“I know that where I was at, I was not going to recover well. All I ever wanted to do was play football for Tyrone and ultimately it would have been over very quickly if I had of made a decision.”

Over 100,000 people will come together across 200 locations on the most important sunrise of the year as communities across Ireland rally to bring hope to people who have been impacted by suicide. To sign up to this year’s event, visit www.darknessintolight.ie

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