‘I encourage men to ask for help when the need it’
Following the heartbreak of his wife suffering three miscarriages, ex-Ireland footballer David Meyler is on a mission to help men open up more and get support for their mental health. By Kevin Palmer
IT was a day of despair former Republic of Ireland international David Meyler will never forget.
The date of March 24th 2017 is remembered by most Ireland fans as the night that Seamus Coleman broke his leg after a horror tackle from Wales defender Neil Taylor in a World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium, yet the agony was just as acute for another of Ireland’s starting line-up on that night and for very different reasons.
As David Meyler reflects on the events of that traumatic day almost five years later, he does so with a clarity of mind that has taken almost five years crystallise.
News that his wife Cally had suffered a miscarriage back in England that morning rocking his world to its core and after much debate, he decided to stay in Dublin and play in the match before heading home to confront his family tragedy.
As he spoke to Magazine+ at an event to promote the 2022 SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme, Cork-born Meyler opened up about a day that changed his life forever and gave him some perspective on what really mattered in his world.
“It was a very tough time for my family, but you have to find a way to get through and we’ve done that now,” reflects former Premier League star Meyler, who lived through three miscarriages with Cally in a short period of time.
“The way I look at it like this now is if my wife and I hadn’t gone through what we have done with the miscarriages, I wouldn’t have my son now.
“You have to find a way to move on and that is what we have done. We have a happy family now and I’m so grateful for that.
“My experiences that morning of the Wales game were tough and as I look back on it now, I don’t know what to think. I got the call from my wife to say she had suffered a miscarriage and I went to see the manager Martin O’Neill, who told me to go home and be with my family.
“The earliest I could have gotten back to the UK was six or seven hours, so I decided to stay and ended up playing in the game.
“People might have been criticising me for my performance that night, but they would have had no idea about what went on in my life that day.
“Part of your professionalism as a sportsperson is to hide the problems that come your way and concentrate solely on the game.
“When you cross that white line, you can park things to one side and get on with the job in hand. Then when the match finishes, you think about other issues again and that’s why it hit me.”
Meyler believes men are still reluctant to speak out about issues affecting their mental balance, as he suggested the reluctance to expose their vulnerabilities still acts as a barrier for those men who need support.
“Everyone deals with things in a different way and while men have got better at talking about issues that are affecting them, we can do more,” continues the son of 1986 All-Ireland senior hurling winner John Meyler.
“We need to encourage men to openly speak about these topics because there is still this macho idea there that you deal with it yourself.
“Speaking about the issues I went through helped me, but for a long time, I couldn’t do that. There is this bravado in men that they don’t speak openly about these issues, but we need to do it more.
“Getting a message out there that’s it’s okay to say you are in trouble is important and speaking to people and reaching out to them is important. I’ll occasionally send texts to people I played with to make sure they are okay.
“Sending a text only takes a few seconds and it can mean a lot to someone if they are having a bad time. Arrange to go for a coffee or a lunch with a friend and you never know how important that might be if they are going through a bad time.
“I have always been honest in my life. That stems from my mother the father. You cut out the nonsense and tell it how it is.
“Speaking about the issues I went through helped me, but for a long time, I couldn’t do that. There is this bravado in men that they don’t speak openly about their issues, but we need to do it more.
“You can probably count on one hand the friends who will be there to support you when you need them most and they will come and help you when you need them most.
“So I’d encourage all men reading this to ask for help when they need it because there will be people there for you to lean on.”
- THE SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme is open to boys and girls from 4th, 5th and 6th class, and puts emphasis on fun and inclusivity. Register for the SPAR5s by March 4th at fai.ie/SPARPrimarySchool5s
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