Belfast Telegraph

How the memory of my brother inspired charity: ex-Northern Ireland player

By Graham Luney

Former Northern Ireland and Manchester United footballer Pat McGibbon has admitted he didn't grieve properly when his brother Phillip took his own life.

McGibbon was 19 and aiming to carve out a professional career at Old Trafford under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson in 1993 when he received news that rocked his family.

The Lurgan man said his brother's memory is the driving force behind his charity Train To Be Smart to promote mental health through sport.

Ferguson and former United and Republic of Ireland skipper Roy Keane have both helped McGibbon raise awareness and funds for the project.

The 44-year-old now acknowledges it has taken him a long time to come to terms with the loss of his brother.

"Even now people are uncomfortable when I bring up my brother's suicide," said McGibbon, who won seven Northern Ireland caps.

"I prefer to talk about it than not talk about it. At the time I talked to the United chaplain Ken Bowyer. I understood Phillip's problems and what led to him taking his own life.

"I parked it somewhere in my mind and I didn't grieve properly. My mum Geraldine and dad Pat are great people, fantastic role models and they couldn't have done any more for Phillip.

"When I got the news he passed away it was the worst day of my life."

Around 200 kids in the Mid-Ulster area are now benefiting from McGibbon's charity.

"It's going back to my core values, family and sport," he added.

"The idea to do something in mental health came to me later in life. I didn't know enough about the human mind when Phillip passed away.

"Sir Alex and Roy Keane have supported the charity and they have been really helpful."

If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by the issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 080 8808 8000

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