Our Sunday World columnist was caught up in a nasty Twitter spat earlier this week after MMA fighter Conor McGregor had a ‘go’ at PJ Gallagher over his previously announced mental health issues.
“Look, I’m not getting into another tit-for-tat argument with Conor,” said 63-year-old Paul.
“But I am going to continue to speak out for people who may need help or who have been brave enough to ask for help.
“God knows I’ve had my troubles myself, but if anyone has issues with mental health, with drink, drugs, gambling, food disorders, whatever it is, ask for help.
“The person you ask may not be able to help you, but he or she will surely direct you to where you can start on the road to a better place.
“I’ll continue to do that, and use whatever public profile I have in that way, because I know people did it for me. And everyone needs a helping hand when they are down on their luck.
“If people are attacked on any form of social media when they are strong enough to come out and say ‘I’ve had a problem’ – then where are going as a people?”
The Twitter spat began when McGregor attacked radio DJ and comedian PJ Gallagher over mental health issues on which the latter had gone public.
Paul responded by calling PJ “a top man” and urging him to keep going in the face of his troubles.
McGregor then lashed into McGrath, a true Irish football hero, using vile language and allegations on Twitter.
“Paul McGrath bet one of our farmers around, aged in his mid-Sixties, and then stole his f*****g car.
“Stick that kettle on Paul and scald yourself again with it, while you’re at it.
“Don’t come at me again. And your son is a little wimp. Bottler, The Fanny family.” McGregor then threatened to bar Paul from the pubs that he owns, which include the Black Forge in Crumlin, in south Dublin.
Needless to say, the reaction to McGregor’s tweet was massively negative, with one respondent noting, ‘if Conor thinks he’s winning a popularity contest with Paul McGrath then he’s barking up the wrong tree.’
A couple of days later the message seemed to get through to the cage fighter as he came back on to Twitter.
“I’ve decided from now to engage only with positivity and support on this platform.
“There is no point to engage in any sort of response to little wimpy cryba’s and old man farmer beating alcos and his little offspring bottler son.
“F**k the lot of them. Back to the gaf it’s a park.”
Paul was delighted to read that last tweet. “Maybe I did get through to Conor because the funny thing is that I’ve never met either PJ or Conor in my life.
“I just decided to stand up for PJ when Conor was having a go at him over something that is close to my heart and to the way I am, people asking for help when they have troubles of one kind or another,” Paul added.
“Or encouraging others to speak out about issues affecting them.”
“I’ve never met Conor either, I did genuinely ask him to meet for a cup of tea in one of the tweets, but he seemed to take it up the wrong way.
“Now I think it’s best if we don’t meet and that’s a shame because I respect what he has done in the ring.
“My sons were on to me about the stuff he wrote and I said just let it go, it’s not worth getting into a barney with him.”
“Conor is a young man, with a lovely family, with all the money he could want.
“And I’ve heard that Conor has done a lot of good things quietly around Crumlin in Dublin, the area he is from and that I know very well.
“All I’d say to him is enjoy your life Conor and if you have to say something say something positive when people are in need of help.”
Regardless, McGrath will carry on speaking out.
“I think I have to, when you’ve been lucky enough to have good people around you when you are in trouble as I was — and I just felt PJ needed a bit of back-up there.”
For many people, the idea that Paul McGrath is 63 will put the frighteners on them.
To Irish football fans, he is still the beloved, athletic, defending hero of glorious afternoons with Jack Charlton’s team in Stuttgart, Genoa and Giants Stadium.
The knees that were bad then are no worse now, but Paul is enjoying his retirement living in north Wexford, going for long walks and playing a bit of golf when the weather allows.
“Haven’t been doing that for a while now, with all that snow out front, but please God I’ll be back out again on the course with the lads.
“The shortest day of the year is behind us and soon there’ll be a grand stretch in the evenings, time for golf,” Paul laughs.