By the time Dubliner Keith Treacy had done his Junior Cert, he’d already had interest from numerous football clubs in Britain and he and his parents had decided on Blackburn Rovers. The day before he was going away, he had a party in Fairview to send him off. He was 15.
“We swiftly ended up down in the off licence and over in the park, having our own little party. That was my first run-in with alcohol.”
Keith joined Ryan Tubridy in studio on Thursday to talk about how alcohol derailed his promising career as a professional footballer. The accommodation in Blackburn was close to the training pitches, but the teenage Keith was a long way from home. He spent the first few months feeling homesick and then he started sneaking out to go to the pubs.
“There were thirty-two players in sixteen rooms in a digs that was just off the pitches. So we had Mick and Mary who were the house parents, but, like I say, there were thirty-two players there, so it was quite easy to slip out the back door and not be noticed for a while.”
His career was on an upward curve at Blackburn. At 17, he owned his house and the Range Rover parked outside, even though he didn’t have a licence to drive it. But Ryan wanted to know how Keith could do so much drinking and still play football.
“It was quite easy, I think because you’re so young and so fit at the time, you can sort of get away with it… At 19,20, being super-fit, you could hide the fact that you’ve had a couple of pints the night before… Or you could even just throw in a back injury, a hamstring tear, go in with the physios for the day and you wouldn’t even have to see the managers.”
Despite his heavy drinking, Keith was called up to the Republic of Ireland squad in 2011, for a friendly against Argentina, an accomplishment he remains proud of (even though he was kicked out of a hotel room by his idol, Damien Duff). At this stage, the drinking wasn’t going unnoticed and several clubs tried to get him some help, but he didn’t think he had a problem.
“At the time, you’re in this bubble, you’re earning thousands a week, people are loving you, you’re signing autographs right, left and centre. And in my head, I was only having a couple of pints here and there.”
It took quite a while and a lot of help and support from his wife, Leanne, to get Keith to admit he had a problem and then to start to do something about it.
“I’ve been through nearly four years of therapy and me and my wife have gone through every little thing to try and push on, that’s why we are where we are today.”
You can hear Keith’s full chat with Ryan here.
If you’ve been affected by depression or addiction issues help is available:
You can call The Samaritans on 116 123 or log onto www.samaritans.ie
Or Alcoholics Anonymous on 01 842 0700 or log onto www.alcoholicsanonymous.ie
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