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  • Northside West

Ballymun GAA legend’s book tells a poignant tale

Wednesday, 4th October, 2017 1:00pm
Ballymun GAA legend’s book tells a poignant tale
Ballymun GAA legend’s book tells a poignant taleView More Images

ALL-IRELAND winner and Ballymun man Philly McMahon has written a heartfelt memoir in which he tells of his relationship with his brother who died tragically.

The Choice, to be published on October 13 by Gill Books, details how Philly’s rise to sporting greatness coincided with his sibling’s decent into drug addiction.

Written with sports journalist Niall Kelly, Deputy Editor of, the book not only chronicles Philly’s fabulous football career, but also tells how John’s life journey took an almost polar opposite path.

While Philly is rightly proud of the Dubs’ three-in-a row GAA success, he also carries a weight of sadness for John who died in 2012 at the age of 31 after a long struggle with heroin addiction, and when he was at the point of being almost drug-free.

The brothers were raised in a loving home in Ballymun flats at the height of the drug epidemic that ravaged the community.

In his book Philly recounts how the opportunities and choices sport afforded him sent his life in a very different direction to that of his brother.

Playing and excelling at football provided Philly with confidence, mentorship and a sense of purpose; priceless gifts in a Ballymun under siege.

Others were not so fortunate, including John, who fell prey to rudderless-ness, boredom and, eventually, drugs.

While the blue jersey became Philly’s mission, and a springboard to university and a successful career, John slipped from the family circle and into a debilitating, and ultimately tragic, cycle of addiction and recovery.

For Philly, the book is a plea for compassion and awareness.

“Some people look at addiction and think beating it is as simple as choosing to do something positive with your life,” he says.

“Like, I chose to play football and go to university, and John chose to be an addict. It isn’t that simple.

“I was empowered to make decisions, to make the most of opportunities John never had.

“Some of that was luck, some of that was seeing his pain and learning from it. But what choice did John have?

“He was struggling with addiction before he was 15.

“The choice at the heart of this book isn’t that choice; it’s the one we each have to reach out and help others, to make the most of our good fortune.

“It took John’s death for me to learn that lesson, but if others can learn it by reading my story and seeing John as the loving brother he was rather than ‘an addict’, then perhaps some good can come of it.”

Raw, vivid and intensely moving, The Choice is many things – an epic story of triumph in the face of adversity and loss, a family saga, a tribute to the redemptive power of sport – but above all it’s a stirring meditation on the roles compassion and resilience can play in shaping our lives, and those around us, for the better.

Philly is a mainstay of the current All-Ireland winning Dublin football team and has been awarded two GAA All-Stars.

An entrepreneur and social activist, he owns and operates a number of businesses, including three gyms and Fit Food, a meal preparation service.

Since losing his brother, John, Philly has become an outspoken advocate for numerous addiction and mental health initiatives.

The Choice by Philly McMahon will be published by Gill Books on Friday, October 13, and is  priced at €22.99.

It’s available to pre-order now from Eason and Dubray Books.


Ballymun legend Philly McMahon’s new book is being published this month.

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here