Philly McMahon explains how he started football to keep an eye on his late brother

The Dublin defender plays an active role in defeating the stigmas attached to drug addiction

Philly McMahon says that football, in the early days of his career, enabled him to keep an eye on his brother who passed away in 2012.

McMahon's brother John suffered from drug addiction for most of his life, although his death was not directly caused by his addiction. Since his passing, the Dublin All-Ireland winner has endeavoured to break down barriers that hinder the rehabilitation process for those who still struggle with this problem.

Speaking at the Science Summit on the Pat Kenny Show, McMahon explains how playing football was initially a way to keep an eye on his brother during their youth.

"I picked up a football to try and spy on John," McMahon said. "I kicked the ball off the flats to try and see what he was up to, and I'd go back up to my parents and I'd rat him out and get money for sweets, so that's how I started playing football. But I had huge influential support from Ballymun Kickhams, and especially from Paddy Christie, who was my mentor all the way up."

"John grew up in an era when heroin was rampant in Ballymun, and his friends took it" McMahon explained. "It was probably the cocaine of today. The reason why I didn't was because I saw the pain he went through when he was taking the drugs.

"John for me, made me who I am today, and essentially his legacy is going to save hundreds and hundreds of people through me. Not everybody has someone they can look up to, but it's important to show our kids that if you take drugs, this is the road you're going to go down."

In relation to tackling the scourge of drug addiction, McMahon said he believes decriminalising drugs deserves more thought and outlined the benefits of injection centres where addicts are monitored by the right medical personnel and where antidotes are provided in the case of overdose.

Image: Philly McMahon in action for Dublin this year

"We've a lot of people who say that if we decriminalise drugs, we might normalise it, but not really. We're completely cutting out the drug dealers who are devaluing the drug. In Portugal, if someone is caught with a small amount of personal use drugs, they will be put in front of a judge, a doctor and a psychiatrist and their punishment will be a recovery programme, so we need to give them a way back in [to society] and a second chance.

"The big thing with [injection centres] is we're taking drugs off the streets, we're monitoring the individual and we're also putting drug addicts in an area where we can target them and hopefully put them on to recovery programmes. That's very important, because what we're doing now is leaving them on the streets until they die."