Former Republic of Ireland skipper Kenny Cunningham gave a fascinating insight into the mindset of a professional sportsman and the toll failures can take on them during an appearance on Friday's OTB AM.
The Dubliner lived the dream in a career that included spells at Wimbledon, Birmingham City and Sunderland. He represented his country at the World Cup in 2002 before going on to captain Ireland under Brian Kerr.
Cunningham played for his country on 72 occasions, but made the surprising revelation that his Ireland shirts and other trinkets from his career are not treasured possessions, instead they are gathering dust in a laundry bag in Cunningham’s attic.
The admission came unexpectedly in conversation with Adrian and Eoin on OTB AM, as the lads joked that Cunningham was yet to donate a piece of memorabilia from his career to help decorate the newly installed Off the Ball studio in Marconi House, Cunningham said a walk down memory lane would be too painful.
When pressed further on why his memorabilia were a ‘lot of bad memories’ the former Ireland international eventually conceded: “Most professional players, their careers are littered with more disappointment than success, big regret and disappointment co-exist hand in hand. They’re not conversations I like to have they put me in bad form.”
Cunningham admitted that playing for Ireland was his biggest source of pride but that some of his darkest days came in a green shirt. Cunningham seems to still be haunted by a mistake he made in a match in 1999 while playing in a European Championship qualifier with Croatia. The Boys in Green lost 1-0 and Cunningham blamed himself for the goal that Ireland conceded:
“I could’ve done better on various occasions and there were huge impacts to those small mistakes, you look to yourself first.
“Some of my most desperate moments on a football pitch have been in an Ireland jersey, almost inconsolable, in the end it didn’t prove to be too costly but we played a game away to Croatia and we lost the game 1-0 and in the last couple of minutes, Davor Suker scored and it was my fault.
“It was a big kick up the pitch I got too close to him, he rolled me and put it in the back of the net, lost 1-0. We played ok it was a good defensive display we probably earned a draw but it was my mistake that cost us the game, I remember being in the dressing room after the game I was livid with myself.
“I just couldn’t engage with people or communicate with them, I couldn’t make eye contact with them, we were flying to Malta the following day and I’ll tell you how bad it was, I had Ulysses from James Joyce and I literally had my head in that book for two or three days and I found it very difficult to snap out even before the Malta game, I actually took those bad feelings and that negativity into the game, I was so angry with myself.
You can watch the full conversation below. OTB AM returns Monday from 7:45 every on our Facebook, YouTubeand Periscope channels. If you would like to see more sporting videos, like and subscribe any of our pages or log onto offtheball.com.