Cork soccer star Clare Shine sees light at end of dark tunnel

Andrew Horgan talks to Clare Shine about the searing honesty of her book on her career and life off the pitch
Cork soccer star Clare Shine sees light at end of dark tunnel

Clare Shine with her new book at Tallaght Stadium. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher

IT was just before midday when Clare Shine took her seat in Eason’s bookshop in Douglas Court.

Like many others that grew up in the area, it is a place that Shine knows well having spent plenty of time in that shopping centre as a child.

“I used to go down to Dunnes to get my ice cream when I was younger. I would get my pens and my books for school then from Easons as well,” she recalls.

But this time, the reason for her visit is very different. Behind her is a huge poster confirming the launch of her very own book; ‘ Scoring Goals in the Dark.’ In front of her is a table with a few copies of said book and just a few yards away a line is beginning to form as the Cork public has come out in force to meet her and get their own edition personally signed by the talented footballer.

“To be able to have my book down there now is unreal,” she continues.

“I never thought that I would ever even read a book from there let alone sell one there so it’s definitely been crazy.

“The launch went really well, I was really happy with it. There were a lot of people that came that I hadn’t seen in years so it was just nice to catch up with them as well.

“I didn’t really have any expectations for it to be honest but it definitely exceeded the number I would have thought were going to come and buy a book or just say hello or whatever so I’m really happy with how it went.”

But it soon became clear that some people were attending for a more significant reason than to just say hello.

The book, by its own description, is “the story of a girl struggling to find her true identity, a journey in search of confidence and self-belief from someone who seemingly had it in abundance, and a remarkable tale of recovery and achieving new goals.”

Clare Shine in action against Montenegro in 2020. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Clare Shine in action against Montenegro in 2020. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The book is remarkable in its honesty as Shine describes how she went from the very top of women’s football - scoring the winner for Cork City in the FAI Cup final, playing for Glasgow City in the Champions League, scoring a hat-trick in the Scottish Cup final against Hibernian to lead Glasgow to a fourth consecutive treble and representing the Republic of Ireland at underage and senior levels - to an extremely low point in her personal life.

On Saturday the 20th of October 2018, Clare Shine attempted to commit suicide for the first time as her addiction to alcohol and drugs had taken control.

Then years later a relapse, brought on by the loneliness of Covid-19 lockdowns in Glasgow, had culminated in more suicidal thoughts and a high-profile 10-hour police search that found her in Edinburgh.

It’s those mental health difficulties that have resonated with so many across the country, and also with a couple of people that were queuing up to meet her.

“I think mental health and addiction has hit home with a lot of people,” admits Shine.

It affects a lot of people. It opens their eyes to a lot of things too so there were a few people who were at the book launch who were getting upset because it had hit home for them.

“There were maybe happy tears as well in a way because they knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

“They saw how far I was able to come… so that was very eye-opening as well for me, coming from a place where I felt like I didn’t have anybody.

“It’s been very heartwarming, to be honest. A lot of people have shared their experiences with me through social media. I have a lot of messages that I haven’t been able to get through yet but I will over the next couple of days.

“Seeing the reaction now is massive, especially for people who are going through their struggles at the moment, for them to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Thumbs up from Clare Shine at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Thumbs up from Clare Shine at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The recently turned 27-year-old got a glimpse into what the reaction to her story may be like when she penned an open and honest letter to her younger self after a setback nearly two years ago.

It was that positive reaction to her bravery that made her realise she had to release a book.

“Back in 2020 when I came out with the letter to my younger self in the sports chronicle, myself and Gar (Gareth Maher, who wrote the book with her) had talks around that period of time about a book,” admits Shine.

“I felt like after that that I had so much more I wanted to say that I didn’t get out in the letter. After that I had my relapse, we had lockdown so it came to a halt then.

“But when I was in hospital… the months after that I was still writing, I was still putting things together, and there were definitely things that I still wanted to share.

“I felt like my experiences could definitely help people so it went from there and then last summer - this time last year - Gar approached the publishers and we finally got the contracts sent off.

“It took maybe six to ten months to get everything done and handed over so it was a long but really interesting process.

“When I did write that letter to my younger self, I wasn’t really prepared for the overwhelming feeling afterwards.

“I was only a year sober at that point so maybe I was a bit naive to the reaction whereas this time around I was a lot more prepared.

“There is a lot more than comes with writing a book, the letter was only a little piece of what I had to say so this was a lot bigger and I’ve got a much bigger reaction.”

Putting her story onto paper was not without its challenges though as the Douglas native had to recount numerous dark days during her life.

Her closest friends and family were already aware of some of the tough times Shine faced in the past but reading the details in black and white wouldn’t be easy for them.

It also wouldn’t be easy for anyone that knew of her and didn’t realise what she was going through.

“It was tough at times going through the difficult parts but it was nice to be able to reflect and go through other things and ultimately closing the chapter on all that,” she adds.

“I am hopefully after coming out the tail end of a few bad experiences so it was nice to reflect, to go through things on a deeper level and that’s really what I wanted with the book.

Clare Shine after scoring for Cork City WFC in 2017. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Clare Shine after scoring for Cork City WFC in 2017. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

“It’s easy for me to sit here and speak about it when I’m in a good place but the book resembles what it’s like to go through dark times and what it is like to experience a lot of tough moments as well.

“I went through everything with my close friends and family so none of it was really something that shocked them.

“Maybe putting it all together and reading through it in the book was quite hard for them. Of course, there were people who I would have known growing up going through these parts that nobody knew about so I feel like it would’ve had a big impact on them. It was coming to knowledge for them for the first time… it must’ve been very hard.

“But I just wanted the book to be a safe place for people to know that they are not alone and that there is support out there for them to reach out to.” 

FIRST STEP

That’s why Clare Shine deserves so much credit for bravely putting her own experiences into words for the public to digest.

It’s why the book is an important read for anyone that may be going through something even vaguely similar as Shine is proof that even the longest, darkest tunnel has light at the end of it.

“All they need to do is to make that first step and speak about how they are feeling to the people closest to them,” Shine advises.

I have learned a lot about myself going through all these different periods. That’s what recovery does, it breaks it down into a million pieces and puts you back together in different ways.

“I have definitely learned and I have grown throughout this time and I am definitely stronger in terms of how I react and my behaviours towards things so it can only really get better from now.

“I’m in a really good place. The season didn’t really go as we would have planned but I’ve had two weeks off now so I’m looking to get back to training this week and hit the ground running going forward into next season and see where that takes me.

“I’m in a good place outside of football so now I’m just looking to break back into the Glasgow team, get more game time and hopefully that can bring me to a lot more places as well.

“I want to play football for as long as I possibly can. Then I am looking to go down the route of public speaking, life coaching, etc.

“I’m going to need qualifications for that so I’m looking into that and seeing where that goes. That’s my plan going forward and hopefully, it works out.

“I’ve never been one to give myself a pat on the back but the book is definitely the most important and the biggest achievement I have been able to do in my life to date.

“I’m really proud of how it turned out and how positive the reaction has been to it.”

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