Andrew Donovan reporting from the official book launch in Tallaght Stadium.
“It affects a lot of people they just don’t know how to speak about it or where to turn to they feel like it’s going to ruin their life. They don’t want to be vulnerable in these situations.”
Clare Shine is speaking about her addiction and mental health issues, the subject of her new book Scoring Goals in the Dark that she has written with Gareth Maher. Shine has seven caps for the Republic of Ireland and is a multiple league and cup winner during her spells at Raheny United, Cork City and Glasgow City.
From the outside it seemed like she was living the dream, turning professional at 19, playing in the UEFA European Championships and Fifa World Cup but for those closest to her and for Clare herself, life was a nightmare where she even attempted suicide to end it all.
After an interview she gave this week to Virgin Media her mum texted her to say she was so proud of her. “I never thought I would be in a situation where she would have those feelings for me again after everything I had put her through.
It is those moments that can get quite overwhelming because there were times I didn’t want to be here and I didn’t think I’d ever get back playing on the pitch and then a couple weeks later I was scoring in the Champions League and then instead of my brother coming to visit me in hospital he was coming to watch me play for Ireland.
Shine is a remarkable person small in stature but with a big presence and enormous heart.
She gestures towards her girlfriend Amy sitting at the table behind us as someone who has played a vital role in the past year of her recovery.
“I didn’t feel like I could let somebody in and be emotional with. Two years ago I felt like I had nobody. It is crazy how the mind can work sometimes as back then I felt like nobody loved me and now I walk into the dressing room and I know I love them and they love me. I lived in fear a lot of the time.”
Not being able to go on stage at the homecoming for the Cork City cup final because she had been drinking for 48 hours, hadn’t showered or even washed her face. Turning up to games drunk and out of shape.
During the whole 2017 season for Cork City she says she drank probably four times a week but when the cup final in the Aviva Stadium approached she cut the drinking to three weeks only to go on a binge that didn’t stop for months. “It was as if I had forgotten about everything I had achieved up until then, as if I had forgotten about who I was.”
Today she knows who she is and instead of feeling fear it’s pride about what she has overcome and what an achievement it is to write this book.
“I remember thinking the world has nothing to give me and I have nothing to give the world so why am I here ? Now I know I can bring a lot more to the table without just my football, I have the personality and the character to open up different areas, never in a million years did I think I could write a book by 27 when I left school.
"Without football I never could have written the book, it is weird how life brings you through these unbelievable moments and really dark moments. You need to go through all these things to learn more about yourself to grow and understand and appreciate the simple things in life.
"I have been speaking about these things for years with my friends and family, with counsellors and psychiatrists so now it feels like I’m still having a chat with them so I am comfortable sharing this.”
Shine feels the book is able to bring people into a scenario of how dark and deep addiction and mental health can bring you if you don’t look after it. “That’s why I’m never taking the foot off the pedal. I wake up everyday and make sure I’m in the right mentality. Of course I have my bad days but it is about having those tools and people to speak to overcome it.”
Alcohol is part of the fabric of Irish society and be it a football match or any other social occasion. How do you live in a culture when one of its main aspects has caused you such destruction ? Shine struggled with this “When I was trying to get sober I had a fear that I was going to miss out on everything because everything is associated with drink.
"I had to sacrifice a lot of events and take my distance from close friends because my lifestyle had to be different from theirs. I had to miss a wedding ahead of the [SWPL] cup final because I have to be strict when I take my medication and I didn’t want to disrupt my preparation.
"That is the reality of recovery, you learn and grow so much and it makes you appreciate life a lot more. After my first rehab I didn’t fully believe I was an alcoholic there was a voice in my head saying that the next time I pick up a drink it will be different and then I relapsed and I saw how gripping and how overpowering and how much control I had lost, it was gone in the blink of an eye.
“There is a picture in the book where I had got my first start for Ireland and three weeks later I had gone on a massive binge it just shows you how little control you have over it.”
She is the mental health ambassador for Glasgow City FC and works with breathing space a charity in Scotland, giving talks to the academy teams going through the different supports available and numbers to call but she wants to give more specific advice on how to manage the pressures of football “how to try and be present in the moment and not achieve the next thing before achieving the first.. its very hard to live in the moment as there is always a next game and I try to educate young players so they know how to handle these different scenarios when they reach the highest level because that’s where the magic can happen.
When you’re young and going through all these stages like moving away from home, making sacrifices, there is a lot to being a professional footballer that gets swept under the carpet and it affects everybody.”
The mind in football can be a horrible place at times and she feels that in football the negative is brushed aside and there isn’t anyone to have those uncomfortable conversations within the game.
“If someone sat down beside me and told me their deepest darkest secrets I’d say thank you because I love these scenarios and the intensity. I want to go down the line of being a life coach, public speaking about addiction and mental health. I have finally found my voice and I would like to be able to help the younger teams coming through and I want to prevent what happened to me happen to the next generation.”
You can purchase Clare's new book by clicking the link here.
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