BE PART OF THE TEAM

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 21 April 2021
Advertisement

'We can't bring Gary back but we can try and help other people'

Dublin star Lauren Magee speaks about a recent family tragedy in the hope of helping others.

IT MEANS SO little in the grand scheme of things, but it also means so much.

lauren-magee Dublin star Lauren Magee. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

For Lauren Magee, football has been a glimmer of light in the darkness. A beacon of hope amidst the despair. A semblance of normality through an excruciatingly difficult few weeks. It’s been an outlet, an escape, and so much more.

Although things will never be the same again, the Dublin star is doing all she can to get through this heartbreaking situation. And talking about it is one thing that’s helping her and her family.

Magee didn’t have to do this, she didn’t have to open up about something she holds so close, especially with the devastating loss still so raw. But she wants to continue the conversation, having written about the recent death of her stepfather, Gary Kane, on social media.

“My stepdad passed away at the start of October by suicide,” she begins. “Obviously having the set-up that I have with Dublin has been a massive help to me.

“If it had to have happened in the first lockdown, and I didn’t have that set-up and that escape almost, I don’t know how… obviously you can’t just get on with it. You do have to live with it, but it’s very hard to take.

“I don’t think I would have taken it as well not having the football. It’s an escape. The last lockdown, I was in work and I got let go. This lockdown, I’m in a school so I have work and I have football to keep my mind off other things.

“The thing is you’re at home and you’re in your own thoughts when it hits you. Being able to have the luxury to go to training, it’s just been a massive thing.”

She momentarily casts her mind back to earlier in the year and how she wasn’t exactly ecstatic about the prospect of winter football, but that’s all since changed.

And while Magee is cognisant of the fact that others might not have the chance to play like she does against Armagh in the All-Ireland semi-final this weekend, the abundance of sport to watch on TV is a welcome distraction and something to look forward to for one and all.

“You realise how important and how lucky we are to be able to continue to play as a team and to have that support system there just means so much to me. Dublin have been amazing; the management, all the players, everyone has been so, so good to me.

“It just has cemented how important the GAA is in general, and how important it is at this time of the year as well.”

While football has been massive for the 23-year-old through the grieving process so far, her mother, Caroline, has been kept going by sharing Gary’s story. 

Last week, Lauren was in her car and heard the tail end of a conversation on The Niall Boylan Show on Classic Hits. A few words in, the voice sounded incredibly familiar and then it hit her that it was a voice she knows better than any other. “I couldn’t believe it,” Lauren smiles. “She hadn’t told me.”

Caroline had heard a debate on the show about takeaway pints; listeners were calling in about the “disgraceful” scenes on Dublin streets, while others argued that it was an important way to socialise outdoors in a socially-distant manner, and caused no harm.

She texted in there and then, and asked to talk about the negative impact of the pandemic on mental health. And she did so admirably; openly and courageously detailing her husband’s long-term battle and how it had significantly worsened through the Covid-19 crisis.

“It just shows, my Mam is an amazing woman,” Lauren nods. “She’s just so brave.

“Some people speak openly about it straightaway, some people just don’t. I think it’s very important to speak openly about it, to never be ashamed or anything like that if you have someone that has done it.

“Always speak up about it because it’s not that person’s fault at the end of the day. My Mam went on the radio and talked about it, and she’s going down the lines of talking to other people about it and raising awareness.

“We can’t bring Gary back but we can try and help other people.”

With Caroline’s interview uploaded as a podcast due to the remarkable response, Lauren listened to it in full afterwards, beaming with pride.

So many people wanted to reach out to the family, and that support and solidarity has been uplifting in these dark times.

“It’s mad how many people that have been in contact with Mam, but it’s great as well. So many families have been on to her with the exact same situation that they tried to get help, they were brought into hospital, they were let go — ‘Oh, no, they’re doing well,’ this and that.

Be part
of the team

Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership.

Become a Member

“It’s just important if the system’s not going to help, that we’re able to talk about it and you, as a person, can be there for other people — and to never have stigma towards it. If you have mental health issues, don’t ever feel the need to not talk about it or to get help.

“And if you’re not getting help from professionals, talk to people or do something within yourself to help. We’re trying to get to a point where we do get the health system to change and to help people so that these types of situations don’t happen again.”

“But obviously there’s a lot to go with that,” she frowns. “So for now it’s to raise awareness to talk and to reach out to people. Samaritans would be one that my stepdad used a lot and they were brilliant.

“Obviously Movember is a great thing as well, it raises so much awareness and money for different causes. It’s a tricky time but as I said, we’re trying to get through it but we’re also trying to help people and to try and get the word out to talk and to make changes.

“Hopefully towards the end of my Mam doing all of this, we will get somewhere and we will help other people.” 

Hard-as-nails on the pitch, Magee’s kindness and compassion shines through with every word off it. Her tough exterior breaks down bit by bit through our conversation as she and her family try to make something positive off this unimaginably negative situation.

She’s real about the card they’ve been dealt, but she’s doing her utmost to stay positive for herself, her mother, her younger siblings and for others.

“It’s never gonna be the same but unfortunately, life goes on if you lose someone or not. You just need to take it in your stride in that sense. You will have bad days, you will have good days but you need to do stuff to keep your mind off things.

“If you can keep your mind busy, that’s actually the most important thing. If you’re sitting at home and doing nothing, wallowing and crying and stuff, you’re in your own bubble and you get really down whereas if you have to get up and go to work or go to training or do something like my Mam is doing with everything like this, trying to get information out there, it does get you through the day.

launch-of-the-2019-leinster-gaa-beko-bua-awards Lauren Magee was on hand as Beko and Leinster GAA launched Beko Club Champion. Source: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

“Nothing’s going to bring Gary back, but it’s something that’s keeping her mind busy as well as everything else. If she can help someone, it will help her in herself. 

“Obviously Mam has to be there for my little brothers. This is allowing her to kind of keep a balance as well, for my brothers. It’s been weird but as I said, this is good for her.”

Talk of four-in-a-row and other sporting endeavours certainly feels meaningless after Magee opening up and speaking so candidly.

As she says, it’s hard to strike a balance at times like these: sport means so much, but also so little. That thought will be in her head as she graces the Breffni Park turf later today [throw-in 4pm, live on TG4] and when she heads to Melbourne for her first season of Aussie Rules over the coming weeks.

But Gary will be with her each and every step of the way, that’s for sure.

No doubt about that.

 ***

Dublin star Lauren Magee was speaking at the launch of the Beko Club Champion, a competition open for all Leinster GAA clubs. 

People are asked to nominate their club to be in with a chance of winning €1,000 worth of equipment. For more information visit the Leinster GAA wesbite 

***

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Pieta House 1800 247 247 (suicide, self-harm; 24/7 support)
  • Samaritans 116 123
  • 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)

You can also text HELP to 51444 (standard message rates apply) 

About the author:

Emma Duffy

Read next:

COMMENTS (1)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel