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

Become A Member
Dublin: 1°C Wednesday 12 May 2021

'People say you forget everything when you're on the pitch playing football but I didn't'

Mikey Drennan opens up about his battle with depression.

Mikey Drennan is taking a break from football.
Mikey Drennan is taking a break from football.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS STRIKER Mikey Drennan has described the moment he knew he had to take a break from football after battling depression for a number of years.

The 22-year-old last week announced his decision to put his professional career on hold after bravely opening up about the illness which has turned his life upside down in the last three years.

Speaking to The Ray D’Arcy Show on RTÉ Radio 1 this afternoon, Drennan spoke of how he burst into tears shortly after Shamrock Rovers’ recent victory over Bohemians because ‘he couldn’t be happy’ with his team-mates.

“When I was playing and I was coming off the pitch, I didn’t enjoy it,” he said. “After the Bohemians game I really knew this wasn’t for me.

“We won 4-0 in Dalymount, probably one of the biggest results for the club in years, and trying to get up and be happy with the players afterwards but I couldn’t.

“I had to walk out of the dressing and started crying. That’s when I knew this wasn’t for me.

“When I went out of the dressing room, one of the coaches was there and I was talking to him. I was just like ‘I wasn’t happy and it’s not even a matter of whether I was playing or not.’

Mikey Drennan Drennan had made a big impact after returning to the League of Ireland. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“You’re trying to put on a brave face. People say you forget everything when you’re on the pitch but I didn’t.”

Drennan is in his second season with Shamrock Rovers, having returned to Ireland in 2015 after a four-year spell with Aston Villa.

He moved over to England as a 16-year-old, chasing his dream of professional football after completing transition year in St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny.

“It’s like a totally different country, they say it’s the same language and you’re just beside each other,” he continued. “It’s just totally different for me anyway, the fact that you’re just over 16, you’re in the digs, there’s nothing really for you to do.

“You can’t really go out for a night out because you’re not old enough, you’re not familiar with the surroundings so it’s a lonely place and it’s hard for young people to go over.

“You train everyday, Monday to Friday, and you’d have a game on a Saturday. You’d be kept busy but some days you’d be finished 1.30/2pm and you have the rest of the day to fill.

“To be honest, I didn’t really [do anything to fill that time]. I used to go back to my room, close the curtains and watch TV, that was basically it. I had no motivation to do anything.

“It was the little things. You have your routine, you get up, have your breakfast, go to training but it’s when you come back. I’m back now, what do you do?

“You’re at such a young age going over, you haven’t got family and friends, you have to make new friends and stuff like that and it’s hard.

Be part
of the team

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

Become a Member

“At the start, I thought it was homesickness. I actually went home for two months during my second year and I thought I didn’t want to do this and I wasn’t happy – but I wanted to give it another go so I’d have no regrets.

“Then it was going really well, scoring goals, captaining my country and everything was going well and I got an injury and it was from there on.”

For those on the outside looking in, Drennan had everything. He was prospering at one of the biggest clubs in England, something every young footballer can only dream of doing.

“That’s the way people see it, you’re over there kicking a ball and you have money and all that. You don’t really have any of that unless you make first team level and you’re on the good money.

“They don’t realise the homesickness, the boredom. I used to gamble, that used to occupy my time. You have money in your pocket, you don’t have to pay rent. Used to go in there.

“Horses and that was it like, used to blow my money and nothing left for the rest of the month.”

After loan stints with Carlisle United and Portsmouth, Drennan eventually made the call to return home last year. He had hoped being closer to family and friends would help.

Mikey Drennan Drennan is now back playing hurling. Source: Inpho

“I wasn’t playing the way I should have been and I was a bit over weight and I came back,” he added. “I thought if I got back home and got fit then it might be okay.I was just trying to feel happy again, work hard.

“I feel happy the odd time, it’s up and down. I feel more better in myself that I’m back home and getting the help I need and that’s the main thing but it’s baby steps.

“I just tried to deal with it myself, I didn’t think I’d come to make this decision to take a break from soccer. I should have got help much help earlier than I did.

“You could be going around with a smile on your face but deep down you’re bursting into tears. I could be just sitting there and I would burst into tears, for no reason.”

Drennan is visiting a counsellor once a week and has returned to hurling, lining out for his local club James Stephens.

“There’s still along way to go but hurling is keeping my mind busy. I want to play for my county, Brian Cody is a club selector, so I need to work hard and keep busy but it’s a matter of getting myself better first.”

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • Console 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

The42 is on Snapchat! Tap the button below on your phone to add!

Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers ‘a possibility’ to feature for Ireland tomorrow night

James McCarthy set to travel to the Euros despite injury issues

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

Read next: