How Kirsty Gallacher moved past dad’s brush with death, devastating divorce and drink driving charge to find new love

OVER the past decade, Kirsty Gallacher has been through the mill – with a painful divorce, drink driving conviction and almost losing her beloved dad.

But the former Sky Sports presenter, 45, has regained her famous smile after reportedly finding love with former boxer Johnny Nelson.

The pair are said to have hooked up late last year, after meeting at the TV station, and have formed a Covid bubble together.

Now the star – already mum to Oscar, 14, and Jude, 11 – says she’s ready to welcome baby number 3 and would want to get pregnant "sooner rather than later".

The news of the blossoming romance comes six years after her bitter divorce from ex-rugby player Paul Sampson, which left her feeling like she had “let down” her kids and led to her two year ban for drink driving, in 2017.

But Kirsty says she’s now stronger than ever, mentally and physically, and ready to move on with the next chapter of her life.

Fairytale wedding on Spanish clifftop

The daughter of champion golfer Bernard Gallacher and dietician Lesley, Kirsty went into TV production after a chance meeting with Mark Sharman, deputy head of sport at Sky, during a Ryder Cup dinner.

Two years later, in 1998, she moved in front of the camera, becoming host on numerous shows including 90 Minutes, Soccer Extra, Gladiator, The Games and Soccer AM.

She met England rugby star Paul at a charity event, in 1999 and their first child, Oscar, was born seven years later.

But Kirsty’s health suffered a blow when she suffered from postpartum thyroiditis – or inflammation of the thyroid gland – which she described as “scary”.

“I was in pain,” she said. “I was like an old woman. I had the shakes, it was awful.”

Six months after the birth of their second child, Jude, the couple tied the knot in a beautiful £50,000 ceremony at her parents’ clifftop home in Arcos De La Frontera in southern Spain.

Kirsty looked stunning in a Suzanne Neville dress and her groom, then 33, shed a tear as she walked down the aisle.

“Someone said to me that it feels no different after marriage,” he told Hello.

“But the bond Kirsty and I have is definitely stronger now, which feels amazing after nine years.”

Dad's near-death experience prompts painful divorce

Home was a £900,000 mansion in Virginia Water, Surrey, which country girl Kirsty vowed to fill with “more kids, more hens and more dogs”.

But after retiring from sport in 2011, Paul sank into depression compounded by grief over the death of his dad, in 2004, which he had struggled to come to terms with.

As Kirsty’s career soared, meaning she spent more time away, Paul struggled with being a stay-at-home dad.

He told the Sun On Sunday: “When you come to the end of your career you think you're a bit washed up. It was a tough time. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy.”

Cracks in the marriage had already begun to show when Kirsty’s dad, Bernard, had a massive heart attack while delivering an after dinner speech in Aberdeen in 2013.

Doctors told him he had “died three times” before reaching hospital and Kirsty, along with mum Lesley and her siblings Laura and Jamie, kept a bedside vigil for five days, until he surfaced from a medically induced coma.

Bernard fought back to full health but, for Kirsty, almost losing her dad proved a “massive turning point for me” – and she decided to call time on her marriage a year later.

She said: “It put things in perspective and made me feel I didn’t want to waste my life. I seriously asked myself whether I was really happy.

“It was scary to make that decision to separate but I realised you have to make the most of every day and make the right choices so you and your children are happy.”

Grief over split and PTSD

When she signed up for Strictly, in 2015, the presenter’s divorce was still being finalised and she later revealed she was “grieving” for relationship

“Divorce has been a very difficult time,” she told the Sun. “I thought it was devastating.

“I was in mourning. I think I had post-traumatic stress disorder. I was skinny, not eating and wanting to blacken everything. It was painful.

"I felt a burden and sadness for my children, even though I did nothing wrong and Sammo did nothing wrong. No one was to blame.”

Paul later revealed the couple had toasted their divorce from opposite ends of a champagne bar, before he walked over to call a truce.

He told The Sun on Sunday: “She got quite annoyed, but I said, 'Look, this doesn’t have to be a war'.”

She later told the Made By Mamas podcast she signed up for Strictly too soon.

“It was a horrible moment and I was distressed for the kids,” she says.

“I was doing Strictly Come Dancing that I loved, but I certainly shouldn’t have done it. It was not the right time.”

Toyboy flings and drink drive shame

Kirsty’s romance with rugby lothario Danny Cipriano – whose former lovers included Kelly Brooke and Katie Price – went public in November 2015.

But a few weeks later, they split over their 12 year age gap

A source told The Sun: "Kirsty was devastated but agreed it was for the best.

"She and Danny were intense for a while but it became difficult. It didn't help that he's younger and she has kids."

A reported romance with actor Laurence Fox – ex-husband of Billie Piper – followed in 2017, although she had never confirmed they dated.

But, while Paul and Kirsty vowed to stay civil legal wrangles over the divorce finances continued with Kirsty calling the marriage her “worst investment ever”.

“It is too complex to get divorced when you have lots of things,” she said. “I am a lucky girl, but the more you have, the more you lose.”

Kirsty blamed the stress of the divorce when she appeared in court on a drink-driving charge in 2017.

Stopped after driving erratically in her £40,000 BMW the morning after a night out with friends, she was found to be three times over the legal limit

Kirsty was also forced to deny claims she was drunk when she collapsed in a corridor at Sky’s studios.

In fact, she was suffering from a viral infection, but her publicist was forced to state: “Blood and urine tests at hospital showed no alcohol.”

A year after the conviction, Kirsty announced she was leaving Sky Sports after 20 years.

Ready for love and baby no.3

Finally free and single, by 2018, Kirsty allegedly enjoyed hook-ups with a couple of younger stars.

There were reports of steamy romp with Jack Whitehall, 13 years her junior, after a showbiz bash in 2018.

More recently, Myles Stephenson boasted of his fling with an older woman to I’m A Celebrity campmates and pals claimed he was referring to Kirsty, who he met at a charity football match.

A friend told the Sun: “Kirsty made the running at Soccer Aid but Myles quickly got into his stride and pursued her rigorously.

“They tried to keep the romance behind closed doors and had a lot of fun together."

And now with the divorce firmly behind her Kirsty – who now hosts a podcast called Stripped Back Sport – seems ready to move on to a more serious relationship.

The star, who has now settled in a £1.4m farmhouse in rural Berkshire, has been secretly dating 54-year-old Johnny and says she is happier than ever.

A source said: “They have kept it quiet but Kirsty and Johnny’s relationship is going great guns.

“They are really keen on each other and friends and family think the romance is for keeps.

“They have a lot in common, obviously sports and keeping fit. Kirsty is a big boxing fan and finds Johnny funny and charming.”

At 45, she is also adamant she is “not too old” to hear the patter of tiny feet.

She told the Women's Health UK podcast, Going For Goal: "I'd love another child. I feel completely ready for it.

"I feel healthier than ever, fitter than ever, I think my mind's better than it's ever been.

"I think sometimes when you have rough patches in your life… as long as you learn, come through it, and get yourself back in a strong place again, I think you feel rather good.”

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