Former Marine from Dungannon on target for Paralympic shooting medal

Philip Eaglesham (centre) with Irish Paralympic team representatives
Philip Eaglesham (centre) with Irish Paralympic team representatives

A former Royal Marine from Co Tyrone will be shooting at the Paralympic Games in Rio d Janeiro next month, less than a year after suffering severe depression.

Philip Eaglesham, supported by the Help for Heroes charity, will represent Ireland having battled his way back from the brink of despair over his debilitating illness.

Five years ago, the Dungannon father-of-three was serving as a corporal with 40 Commando in Afghanistan when he contacted Q Fever.

Although the airborne bacteria has been treated, his condition continues to deteriorate.

“Just over a year ago I tried to take my own life,” he said.

“I’d just had enough of the deterioration and the impact it was having on my wife, the kids, others around me.

“It’s difficult to talk about it, but it’s good to talk about it.”

“There is no real prognosis apart from deterioration so we don’t know where the future lies, but sport has really given me an outlook on to doing something positive.

“As my illness deteriorates, sport gets better and gives us something positive to work on.”

The Eaglesham family has struggled to manage the long-term physical and physiological effects of Philip’s illness – not knowing how much further it will worsen.

As a way of focusing on something positive, Philip began his civilian shooting career at the US Marine Corp Warrior Trials four years ago.

He credits shooting’s adaptive nature with helping him go on to win silver at the trials, which were his first ever competitive shoot.

“Rather than just sitting in the house all day resting, I feel normal. It gives me a sense of being a Marine again. It takes me back to who I was probably more than anything.”

A record 11 athletes from Northern Ireland have been selected to represent Ireland or Great Britain at the 2016 Games.

As well as Philip Eaglesham, the list of athletes representing Paralympics Ireland includes: Ryan Walker, Glenann, football 7-a- side; Jordan Walker, Belfast, football 7-a-side; Cormac Birt, Toomebridge, football 7-a-side; Michael McKillop, Newtownabbey; 1500m; Jason Smyth, Eglinton, 100m.

The four competing for Paralympics GB are: David Leavy; Downpatrick, football 7-a- side; Bethany Firth, Seaforde, swimming; Claire Taggart, Larne, Bocci; Katie Morrow, Ballymena, Wheelchair basketball.