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Brian Lenihan reveals that mental health battle forced his football retirement at 23

Former Cork City and Hull City defender “lucky to have a second chance at life”.

Lenihan:
Lenihan: "It was a really dark period."
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

FORMER IRELAND UNDERAGE international Brian Lenihan has spoken for the first time about the mental health battle that forced his retirement from football at the age of just 23.

In an interview with the Hard Knocks Sports Cork podcast, the Hull City defender spoke of how he attempted suicide in December 2017, four months before he announced his decision to hang up his boots.

Lenihan struggled with a cruel run of knee injuries throughout his time in England, and when he announced his retirement in April, said that the decision “needs to be taken for my own wellbeing”.

But speaking to Trevor Welch on Wednesday, the former Cork City man clarified that his retirement was due to mental health issues rather than a physical injury.

“It’s a bit of a misconception,” he said. “I didn’t come out and say why I did retire, but the reason I did retire was due to illness, not injury.

“It was a really dark, dark period in my life from, say, July up until December. I was struggling a lot with football and with lots of other things, mainly my mental health.”

Lenihan described how he spent three months in the Priory Hospital in Altrincham following his suicide attempt last December and underwent 12 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy.

“It was a really dark period but one that, genuinely, I feel lucky to have a second chance at life,” he said.

“It’s something that not a lot of people know, obviously my mam, my dad, my girlfriend, my close friends, but nobody else really knows that.

“I was torn between doing the interview and not because I don’t want to come across as being dramatic or having an excuse for why I retired. The reason why I agreed to the interview I suppose, if I can help at least one more person and make sure that they didn’t make the same mistakes that I did, because it wasn’t like I didn’t have a close-knit family and a good support network. I really did.”

Listen to the Hard Knocks Sports Podcast here:


Source: HardKnocksSportsCork/SoundCloud

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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