FIFPro, that's me
Daryl Kavanagh: ‘Rehab is the best thing I’ve ever done’
Wednesday 06 July
Nine months ago Daryl Kavanagh emerged from rehab for alcohol, drug and gambling addictions. On Thursday the Irish footballer from Saint Patrick’s Athletic will play for a place in the second qualification round of the Europa League.
Against Iceland’s IBV Vestmannaeyjaron, Kavanagh and his teammates have to overcome a 1-0 deficit from last week’s away match.
Recently, Daryl Kavanagh told his story to The Irish Mail on Sunday. Here is an extract from that interview.
Daryl Kavanagh, the Saint Patrick’s Athletic centre-forward has a chequered past that includes a conviction for attempted robbery and six days in prison on remand. He openly admits to thefts, attempted thefts, attempted robberies and drunken disorderlies galore in his previous existence among the ne’er-do-wells of South Tipperary. Life now, though, is infinitely more palatable.
‘I wouldn’t have dreamed of it back then’, he admits frankly. ‘To be honest, I’m just looking forward to the [European] game. I can’t wait. I obviously had to go into rehab, as I wasn’t taking my soccer seriously, or the clubs I was playing for neither. It was time I gave soccer a proper go, you know. I was never really given it the proper time. I was in there for drinking and drugs. There’s nobody perfect.’
After a period in which he was, by his own admission, on the road to serious jail time, last September, Kavanagh came to a fork in the road. Off the rails at Waterford United, his career on a downward spiral with the club decidedly unimpressed by his extra-curricular activities, he took a long hard look at himself.
And then he took action. He decided to hit his drink, drug and gambling problems on the head, and checked himself into the rehab clinic in Cahir. When he emerged from his 28-day transformation, he had been let go by Waterford United. It was hard to take.
‘I signed for Waterford in the second half of last year. I played about four games and I had to go away. I had to go away into rehab then. When I came out, they cancelled my contract. I thought they’d stick by me, but they didn’t.’
Kavanagh returned to his family and weighed up his options. Not exactly inundated with offers, a lifeline came in the form of a team of out-of-work players the Irish professional footballers’ association PFAI were getting together for a showcase tournament in Oslo, the 2010 FIFPro Winter Tournamentt.
‘I got a second chance at that Oslo tournament, you know?’, he recalls. ‘I heard about it off one of the lads I know, it was in the paper. I rang the PFAI, got the dates and after a good few months of training I ended up getting in the squad. I played in the games over there, and ended up being named player of the Tournament.’
He was suddenly back on the radar at the top League of Ireland clubs queuing up to take a chance on him. ‘There were on or two others who came in for me, but I just felt that St Pat’s were the club. I signed for them after that, and never looked back. St Pat’s took a chance on me. And it was great to get that chance. it’s worked out well for me. I’m happy and I’m going to take each game as it comes. I’m not going to look too far ahead.’
He already has a great future behind him. Newcastle United, Coventry City, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa all took him on trials as a teenager. Now 24, Kavanagh knows he has frittered away his early twenties but is eager to make up for lost time, with the help of a diet and training plan designed by personal trainer Richie Kennedy.
He attends AA meetings regularly, and his woes now only extend as far as cracked teeth. ‘I got a kick in me teeth at the start of the year against Sligro Rovers so I need to get them taken out. It was my front teeth, yeah, they were cracked and it was killing me, and they started to fall apart. It is a bit of a dose, but I‘ll get over it. It’s all part of the game.’
His club are already getting their rewards for his newly sober lifestyle. Last season Kavanagh scored just twice in fourteen games for Limerick. This season, the 24-year old has already scored seven in all competitions after forming a potent partnership with fellow striker Danny North. The pair, who live in digs with Shane Guthrie in Lucan, have scored 16 League goals alone, part of the reason why Pats are second in the table.
‘I’m flying it., fit as a fiddle. Myself and Danny bring what we do off the field on the field. We seem to have gelled. Danny and myself have a good relationship off the field, we spend a lot of time together. We’ve all the sports channels, we were watching the golf lately. There’s no gambling though!’
After a tumultuous journey from Limerick, to Waterford, to the Tipperary clinic, to Inichicore, Kavanagh is now steeling himself for another trip into the unknown: European competition. This Thursday, St Pat’s will play Iceland’s IBV Vestmannaeyjaron for a place in the second qualification round of the Europa League.
‘It’s always good to play at another level, though at the same time I would like to go further in the competition, and we will be trying to do that. I definitely think we can get a result out of it. If I’m really honest, I’m just happy to be going anywhere.’
Daryl is thankful for his good fortune and the second chance at life St Pat’s team manager Pete Mahon bestowed upon him when he took him to Richmond Park. He will never forget the dark days he had before he kicked his alcohol, drug and gambling habits at the clinic in Tipperary last September.
‘I was at a low point alright, it was the right time to do it. It was my decision to go into rehab. It is the best thing I’ve ever done. I’d say to people “don’t ever be afraid to ask for help”. I did ask for help, and it was needed. It was in the rehab clinic. They still stay in contact with me, and I know they’re delighted to see that I’m doing well.
‘it was always there for me if I’m honest, it was just a matter of giving it everything. I’m just looking forward now though, I’ve put all that behind me. I want to get on with the season and get on with my life.’
FIFPro, that's me
FIFPro, that's me is a column in which FIFPro puts 50,000 professional footballers under the world's close scrutiny. What are the positive aspects of the profession? How do they survive in a footballing world that's occasionally difficult? What tips would they give to a professional colleague? What does the professional future look like after a footballing career? The footballer speaks: his story is also the story of FIFPro.
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