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  • Northside West

Top award for Philly’s book

Friday, 15th December, 2017 8:00am
Top award for Philly’s book

Philly McMahon holds the Sam Maguire Cup at the recent Annesley Williams Motors Evening. PHOTO: GAAPICS.COM

Top award for Philly’s book

Philly McMahon holds the Sam Maguire Cup at the recent Annesley Williams Motors Evening. PHOTO: GAAPICS.COM

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ALL-IRELAND winner and Ballymun man Philly McMahon has had his moving autobiography chosen as this year’s Bord Gais Energy Sports Book of the Year.

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

The book overcame stiff competition from five other nominees which were; ‘Any Given Saturday’ by Shay Given, ‘The Warriors Code’ by Jackie Tyrell with Christy O’Connor, ‘The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish cycling’s golden generation’ by Barry Ryan, ‘Gooch: The Autobiography’ by Colm Cooper with Vincent Hogan and ‘Form: My autobiography’ by Kieren Fallon with Oliver Holt.

Written with sports journalist Niall Kelly, Deputy Editor of The42.ie, The Choice not only chronicles Philly’s fabulous football career, but also tells how his brother 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 the 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 community under siege  at the time.

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 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.

Last month he was presented with a Dublin Bus Community Spirit Award at Holy Spirit BNS for his HalfTimeTalk CLG, which is aimed at providing programmes and supports that will reinforce the self-belief that young adults in Ballymun have a right to be the best they can be.

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