Ireland news September 12, 2014

Mooney reveals personal torment

ESPNcricinfo staff

" © ICC/Sander Tholen

John Mooney, the Ireland allrounder, has revealed the full extent of his two-year fight against depression that forced him out of the West Indies tour earlier this year and led to him considering suicide.

In an open and emotional interview with Ireland's RTE Sport, Mooney, who returned to the Ireland team for the ODIs against Scotland this week, explained his lengthy struggles, how things went wrong in West Indies and how his life has now improved but that he would remain in an ongoing battle

"For the last number of years, I had started to withdraw from everyday life," he said. "The drinking excessively as well is never good and you're masking your feelings. A lot of men don't talk about their feelings and I am certainly one of those people. I've spent 20 years bottling up all my feelings. It was a really tough process to get to where I got to today. It wasn't an overnight thing, it was a gradual build-up and when I was in the Caribbean, things had slipped personally for me and there was just no way I could go on with that tour."

At some of his lowest moments, Mooney considered taking his own life and spoke about telling his wife, Lena. He urged individuals facing depression to seek out channels through which they could talk to people and get help.

"Yesterday was Suicide Prevention Day and I have had suicidal thoughts," he said. "I've had to tell my wife about it. She was devastated. That was the first time I had to go into St Pat's [St Patrick's Mental Hospital]. Just a simple little thing. It would have been an easy decision to have gone through with the plan that I had, but to just say it to her, to go through the services that I have gone through and the help that I have gone through was without doubt the best decision I have ever made. The thoughts come like you're having a craving for anything, they just pop into your head. It's a really weird feeling and it is very difficult to explain. I hope nobody ever has to experience them."

According to Mooney, an inability to attend a training session while on tour made him realise he needed to return home and he confided in coach Phil Simmons and close friend Niall O'Brien.

"I'd been in bed for a couple of days. We had played a game on a Friday night. I had a couple of too many drinks. We had a training session the next day and I just couldn't do the training session. I wasn't in the frame of mind to get up out of bed," Mooney said. "It was a really, really bad place. I've had days and weeks like that in the past just luckily enough I wasn't on tour. Straightaway I knew. Simmo was around in my room and Niall O'Brien, who I've played with since the Under-13 level and my closest friend in the team, and they were both in the room with me and they were talking to me and I had the sheets pulled up over my head, I couldn't even look at them. It was a unanimous decision from everybody that I needed to come home."

In the interview, Mooney, who has played 50 ODIs for Ireland, said that the roots of his condition lay in his father's bereavement and had been exacerbated by excessive drinking. Mooney revealed that apart from counselling, he had spent some time in the St Patrick's Mental Hospital, sometimes spending two-three week blocks, but had kept on playing cricket because he wanted to keep working.

"About two years ago, I had to go and do some counselling. My father dropped dead in front of me as a 11-year-old and I never really dealt with those issues coming into my teenage years, I got into a bit of trouble. I made a promise to him that I was going to play cricket for Ireland and that was the real driving force for me to even stay in the game.

"A couple of years ago, I found myself falling out of love with the game, not finding much love in anything really and I decided to go to counselling. And that started to stir up an awful lot of emotional feelings and stuff like that. Cricket Ireland have been superb. I told them straightaway about it and they still managed to keep me going until it just came to a head last year in the Caribbean."

Mooney also said that he had opted not to discuss his condition with team-mates because he did not want the illness to take on the form of a safety net.

"I never felt I needed to have a mask but I felt that I didn't ever want it to be an excuse," he said. "I didn't want to go and say if my form dropped or anything like that, I have this safety blanket of 'Oh, you know I am suffering with depression'. I didn't want that.

"I had this persona in the change room and amongst the rest of the lads that, I'd be one of the heaviest lifters in the gym and this kind of stuff and youngsters might be a bit intimidated by me when I played and I wanted to keep up that kind of persona. In reality, I am just the same as everybody else. With feelings that I had bottled up that I really needed to get rid off."

Mooney also said that the decision to not discuss his condition was one of his worst mistakes as it stopped his team-mates from looking out for him. He credited Cricket Ireland, specially Simmons and chief executive Warren Deutrom for their support.

"Phil Simmons knew and Warren Deutrom knew and I would pay a special thank you to them because they really helped me. Another guy, Phil Moore from the Irish Institute of Sport have been fantastic. They knew from the first day that I had to go to counselling and they have been an unbelievable support to me. It's the first time for anyone to be dealing with it from Cricket Ireland so mistakes were made along the way but it wasn't because of a lack of trying or anything."

Mooney was hopeful he could continue staying on the right side of the fight against his illness: "This is going to be an ongoing fight. This is a battle I am going to be dealing with for a while. I don't think you can ever take your eye off the ball and get away with something like this. It is a recovery programme and it is ongoing. I am on the right side of it at the moment and am hopefully going to stay there as long as I possibly can. I know with the support and the people around me, I am going to come out on the right side of it."

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