Brian Lenihan has opened up on his mental health struggles that resulted in his retirement from football at the age of 23.
Despite suggestions that ongoing knee injuries were his reason for retirement, Brian Lenihan has revealed in recent years that mental health struggles were the determining factor in being forced to bring a premature end to his “lifelong dream”.
Lenihan moved to Hull City from Cork City in 2014, a switch that was almost immediately followed by a call-up to the Republic of Ireland senior squad, but the years that followed coincided with a longstanding battle with suicidal thoughts.
The right-back admits that he regrets not opening up on his struggles in the lead-up to his suicide attempt in December 2017.
“I went into the Catholic church one day in Cottingham (a village on the outskirts of Hull), said a prayer, then went to my car and took the tablets,” Lenihan told The Athletic on World Mental Health Day.
“I chased it with a bottle of wine and then waited for it to happen.”
A passerby spotted Lenihan and alerted the emergency services, who managed to save the Irishman’s life before he spent three months in Manchester’s Priory Wellbeing Centre.
It was while recovering in Manchester that Lenihan was visited many times by fellow Corkman, Roy Keane.
“Roy was really good to me after all that happened,” Lenihan said. “When I was in the hospital in Manchester he lived nearby and he would call in and go for a walk with his dogs.
“He invited me over to his house for Sunday dinner as well. Stuff like that. He didn’t need to do it but he did. For me, Roy Keane was God for as long as I can remember. So for him to do that for me was huge.”
After his 2018 discharge from hospital, Lenihan announced his retirement from football “for my own wellbeing” and he no longer has an interest in the sport as he prepares for a return to regular work at home in Cork.
While he is still dealing with mental health issues on a frequent basis, Lenihan took the opportunity to advise people with similar struggles to speak to professionals as a matter of urgency.
“If you break your arm you’d go to hospital and ask for help,” Lenihan concluded.
“If it’s a mental problem, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You need care.”