MICK Finnegan is a man I think of whenever things go south in my life. This week was one of those weeks.
My wife, my three-year-old son and I were forced out of the house we were renting as a consequence of the overheating of the property market in London.
When house prices rise by 25 per cent in three months it’s hard to come up with a good reason to keep renting out that spare two bedroom terrace you bought a few years back.
It was difficult not to get down about it. Here we are, a small family, just about managing to make a stable life for our toddler.
Our rent was on time, we kept the house well, we never raised any issues with the letting agent and we were within a 12-month lease. And then, in what seemed like a week, the house was sold and we had to leave. Anyone who has had to do it will know that nobody has ever fully articulated what a pain in the hole it is to have to move house.
Doing it with a toddler, in a strange country, without a babysitter makes it even more craic! And through it all I thought of Mick Finnegan.
Over the course of the 40 or so episodes of my Irishman Abroad podcast I’ve only ever had three guests that the general public knew nothing about. Paddy Doyle, a survivor of the Haiti disaster of 2010 who wrote a book about the experience; Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, an inventor and entrepreneur, who created a new substance that was named by Time magazine in their top 50 inventions of the last 10 years; and Mick Finnegan.
Paddy Doyle saw some of the worst things imaginable during the Haiti earthquake and the subsequent humanitarian crisis. Jane survived on beans for years in the pursuit of her dream. But what Mick Finnegan has come through to get to where he is today would make any of us realise that no matter what we are going through, there is a man who has survived worse.
Mick Finnegan endured abuse at the hands of a senior member of a Dublin youth organisation. Not only did the police not believe his story, but neither did his parents. They cast him out and he lived rough in Dublin only to scramble to his feet again through sheer determination.
But that is only the beginning of the journey he described to me in his apartment in west London one sunny afternoon. It’s a tale that can only be diminished by attempting to capture it in a 750-word piece such as this. It’s a conversation that I was lucky enough to record and be part of. And it’s a chat that I tend to go back to during weeks like the one I just had.
I first came into contact with him when he sent me an email to ask if he could support my fledgling podcast with some money in return for an ad for his charity which seeks to promote mental health awareness in young people through rugby and physical exercise.
It was only when I did a Google search that I realised who Mick Finnegan really was and why he should tell his story on the show. It’s very rare to meet someone who has suffered as badly as Mick has. It’s even rarer to find them as candid, as open and honest about the things that have brought them to this point.
I lost my house this week. Mick Finnegan lost a family member and tried to take his own life as a result. As a direct consequence he was deemed unemployable and was reduced to nothing for the second time in his life.
But Mick Finnegan would not stay down.
Over the course of our conversation he explained why he believes that the ability to get back up is the most important quality a person can have. By getting back on his feet, the sport of rugby gave him one more chance and today, as the head of his own charity and a respected rugby coach for London Irish and Saracens, he travels the world spreading his message.
Maybe you haven’t suffered with your mental health. Maybe you just lost something you thought you could rely upon. Hearing Mick’s response to what life has thrown at him is worth hearing as it can only make us stronger.
Listen to Jarlath Regan’s podcast with Mick Finnegan on An Irishman Abroad - on iTunes and www.anirishmanabroad.podbean.com/