Maurice Shanahan knows all about the journey from darkness to light

Former All Star star a fitting ambassador for Pieta’s campaign for vital lifesaving services

Maurice Shanahan: an advocate for   One Sunrise Together on May 8th to raise funds for Pieta’s lifesaving services.  “I  do think I have something to offer but right now it’s all going into my club Lismore.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Maurice Shanahan: an advocate for One Sunrise Together on May 8th to raise funds for Pieta’s lifesaving services. “I do think I have something to offer but right now it’s all going into my club Lismore.” Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

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Maurice Shanahan has a tattoo on his right forearm which he had inked in early 2015, months after hitting what he reflects on as “my rock bottom”.

It’s a simple, life-affirming message that he chose after a few chats with his heavily-tattooed older brother, Dan, his “bodyguard” as he puts it during those darker times when life overwhelmed him.

“It’s a kind of saying, ‘Sky above me, earth below me, life within me’,” says Shanahan, contorting his arm to offer a clearer view of the tattoo.

For a while there, and even as a Waterford hurler, Shanahan wanted out of that life. One Sunday evening in 2014, struggling with depression, he attempted suicide but was saved. On another occasion, with his family gathered around him, he told them he wouldn’t be here in two weeks.

Seven years on, everything has changed for Shanahan. Life bubbles up and bursts out of him these days like a surging geyser.

He is a husband to Katie, a father to six-week old Rosie and a fitting ambassador for Pieta’s Darkness Into Light campaign, calling on the public to support their One Sunrise Together on May 8th to raise funds for Pieta’s lifesaving services.

“Everyone knows I tried to commit suicide,” says Shanahan, who remarkably went on to win an All-Star in 2015. “Thankfully it didn’t work out for me. But other families aren’t so lucky. Only for the people around me at the time I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.”

Outside of Shanahan’s family, Sean Prendergast, a local teacher, and former Cork hurler Conor Cusack also helped pull him out of the mire.

Now here he is, 31, and armed with the tools to help make sure he never returns to those places where negativity reigns.

“I feel very good, to be honest with you,” he says. “I am in a good place right now.”

Which is just as well because life continues to beat Shanahan up at times. Shortly after returning from his honeymoon early last year, he lost his job of 13 years due to the pandemic. He picked up another one but the 12-hour weekend shifts didn’t tally with his club hurling commitments and the Lismore man packed the gig in.

Comfort blanket

“It’s a bit of a regret to this day that I left because I actually enjoyed doing what I was doing in there,” he shrugs. “Look, you learn by your mistakes I suppose.”

He can hardly be blamed for wanting to put the club front and centre in his sporting life. Aside from supporting him through illness, they’d also wrapped a comfort blanket around him when he was cut from the Waterford squad, an early casualty of new manager Liam Cahill’s desire for change after taking over for 2020.

It smacked of a two-fingered salute then when Shanahan went out in his very first club championship game of 2020 and struck 2-17 against Fourmilewater. Cahill was at the game too.

“I did it for my club, I didn’t do it for any other reason,” insists Shanahan.

“I went out to play well to help the 20 lads I was training with. That’s the only thing I wanted to try to do, to help Lismore get over Fourmilewater that day. You can never say I went out to shove it up Liam’s hole because, look, four weeks later the tide turned and [Ballygunner’s] Barry Coughlan gave me a lesson below in Fraher Field in a county semi-final. Those things happen.”

That last line, “those things happen’” is probably the biggest takeaway from Shanahan’s comments. It highlights the positive place in his life he has got to. He is still ambitious but, crucially, pragmatic. Acceptance has replaced desperation.

The younger Shanahan who “was always looking at the paper the following day to see what the reporters were saying, good or bad” appears to have found a more stable middle ground to exist upon these days.

Despite finishing last year’s club championship with 3-44, there was no inter-county recall. An All-Star in 2015, he doesn’t expect it to come in 2021 either, particularly with Waterford thriving under Cahill in 2020, reaching Munster and All-Ireland finals. Still, life is all about hope too and Shanahan has plenty of that.

“Liam might not be there next year, you just don’t know,” he says. “If someone came in, you might be back in their plans so that’s something you have to think about going forward. I do think I have something to offer but right now it’s all going into my club Lismore. I love where I come from and I love the people of Lismore.”

* Maurice Shanahan has teamed up with Electric Ireland to invite the public to join them for a special ‘One Sunrise Together’ for Darkness into Light on Saturday, May 8 to raise vital funds for Pieta’s lifesaving services. See darknessintolight.ie

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