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"I was one foot away from being wiped off the earth" - Paddy Merrigan

Raf Diallo
Raf Diallo

18:28 29 Oct 2019

Jockey Paddy Merrigan is the subject of TG4's documentary series Finné.

It tells the story of his career in racing as well as the dreadful lows he experienced and what's spurred him back into life in the saddle.

Merrigan joined Richie McCormack on Off The Ball to tell his story on Tuesday night.

What really comes across in both the documentary and the chat was the unbridled passion he has for horses and racing.

"I was always passionate with riding horses," he said.

"I'm not joking, the first day I sat on a horse, it was like someone gave me a hard drug - I was addicted straight away.

"So pretty much what would happen was I wouldn't go to school. I was ditching school and going riding horses. But I always felt I was doing the right thing."

Full of peerless self-confidence, eventually Paddy Merrigan went to England to continue his vocation.

But dealing with setbacks proved difficult for him as he stepped away from racing.

See-Saw Of Emotions

"Back then, I couldn't handle the see-saw of emotions," he said.

"I walked away because I had my own problems that I couldn't deal with. People say, 'Paddy Merrigan walked away from a career because he didn't give an f about it'. Do you think a lad about to be champion conditional jockey after riding 10 winners the nine days before, would just retire and walk away if there wasn't something wrong with him? I was too passionate and I couldn't handle it."

As his racing career unraveled, so did Merrigan's personal life. He sought solace in drugs and other temptations.

"Over time, it became less about the girls, less about the drink and more just about taking cocaine," he said.

"I'd been taking cocaine every day and I took that much cocaine I often puked blood onto the street."

Depression also took hold and it culminated in a suicide attempt at train tracks - a location which he revisited in the documentary.

Emotionally Drained

"The reality is I suffered from a severe depression for many a times in my life," he said.

"In my life, three times I was suicidal. When I did that piece in the documentary about that day - I can remember that day so clearly - it took me three weeks to get over that. I relived that in my mind and I wasn't right after filming that for three weeks. I was emotionally drained, I was empty, I was tired."

He also described his emotions from that day when he considered taking his own life by the tracks.

"I remember I'm walking around in circles and I've convinced myself that I am going to take my life," he said.

"And it's a scary feeling. The next thing, I got a feeling that 'if you don't get out of here, you are dead'. It was a realisation of what was about to happen that I was gone. I was one foot away from being wiped off the earth. I was going to step in front of a train and that's an awful thing to say."

But as he explained to Richie, it was also the day that spurred him to try and turn things around.

"It was that evening. Because I was going to be dead tomorrow if I didn't," he said on deciding to seek help.

"I rang Anthony and I said, 'If I'm not dead today, I'll be dead tomorrow'. And I said, 'I need to get back racing'. I knew that was the only thing [that could help]. It was do or die."

You can watch the full Paddy Merrigan interview above via our YouTube channel. You can also find a link to his personal blog here.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this interview you can contact Samaritans on 116 123.


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