Munster and Ireland Keith Earls has spoken about his mental health challenges, including his bipolar diagnosis, and growing up in Limerick during a difficult period in the city's history.

The 34-year-old, who has won 93 caps for his country, was speaking on The Late Late Show about his new book 'Fight Or Flight: My Life, My Choices'.

Earls revealed that he suffered a panic attack after the death of his 19-year-old cousin in a car accident when he was 12, but that it took him a long time to seek help.

"I was sitting at home on the couch and my parents were at work and I remember thinking 'I wasn't going to see my cousin ever again', and then it just went downhill from there, I was thinking about when I die, I will never see my parents.

"I was shaking, I was trembling and then the panic attack started. I didn't know what it was. I genuinely, genuinely thought I was going to die.I came around after a few minutes.

"I kept it all quiet, didn’t really speak about it. I suppose the fact I didn't know what it was, I was a small bit embarrassed, maybe. I have had a couple of them out through my career as well and it did take me a long time to talk about stuff.

"It was never mentioned in my house, never mind the country or Limerick, it wasn't a thing that was spoken about back then."

Eight years ago, Earls decided to get professional help and was diagnosed as bipolar.

"I was in camp in 2013. I am in Irish camp, Joe Schmidt is just taking over the Irish team. I should be on cloud nine.

"My daughter, Ella Maye, my first girl, was born in 2012 and she was born with a respiratory condition, and you know my emotions were everywhere. My paranoia was through the roof. My negative thinking, it was shocking, and you know I was so sick of it. It was absolutely draining me.

"So, here I am in Carton House, in Irish camp and I just decided I need to do something about this. So, I rang the doctor… I explained everything to him, he was brilliant. I went down to see a guy in Cork, a psychiatrist, and he diagnosed me with bipolar II. There is obviously bipolar I as well, but bipolar II is probably the better out of the two to get. I was delighted to get the diagnosis; I was genuinely losing my mind."

"Thankfully over the last couple of years, I have got a great hold on it. I have found my identity. Which I think was part of the problem as well. I didn't know who I was, and I was always trying to be other people. I didn’t know when I was Keith, I didn’t know when I was Hank (the name he gives to his depressive side). And thankfully I can tell the difference now.

"I wanted to tell my story because…if I can help anyone, even it was in the general public, any one of my team-mates to talk to someone before it gets too late. I think that’s what saved me, stepping up and not being embarrassed and speaking to someone and telling someone that I was struggling."

Moyross is the biggest housing estate in Limerick

Talking about growing up in Moyross in Limerick, he said: "It was a council estate, and you know the sense of community and I suppose the road rearing you…that was my typical childhood.

"I did have a great childhood and I would change nothing about it but as you know like, Moyross and crime over the years you know…

"Growing up, you know, it was quite tough, it was the height of the feuds and stuff. It was challenging at times, but 95% of the time it was a great place to grow up - as I said a sense of community - but the other 5% was dark enough."

Earls recalled an incident that was "not your typical story", which is included in his book: "It was a beautiful day, and I was outside in the back garden. My cousin, my parents were around. We had the pool table out there and we heard shots, you know a couple of loud bangs.

"Myself and my cousin ran out to the porch, and there was a guy standing there with a balaclava, firing shots at a group of young lads running. Not sure if he was actually going for them or was it a couple of shots to scare them. That was, I suppose, a unique situation that not many people in the country would have grown up with.

"It was tough at times and I know I'm painting a tough picture here of Moyross, but I can only tell my story. I am very proud to be from Moyross but you know this was my experience."