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Farrell was born prematurely, weighing 1 pound 6 ounces, in Castleknock, Dublin to Rita and Eamon Farrell. His father was a footballer who played for Shamrock Rovers FC. Farrell has three siblings, two sisters, Claudine and Catherine, and a brother, Eamon Jr.
Farrell was educated at St. Brigid's National School in Castleknock followed by Castleknock College and Gormanston College. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he was a promising young football player for Dublin team, Castleknock Celtic, as a goalkeeper. Farrell attended The Gaiety School of Acting, but dropped out and was cast in the part of Danny Byrne on Ballykissangel, a BBC television drama. Farrell appeared on the show from 1998 to 1999.
Farrell married English actress Amelia Warner in July 2001 and divorced her four months later. He has a son, James (born September 12, 2003), with American model Kim Bordenave, from whom he has since separated.
In December 2005, Farrell voluntarily checked into a rehabilitation treatment center for addictions to recreational drugs and painkillers. His publicist commented that Farrell had started taking painkillers due to a back injury. He was released on January 2006. In May 2006, Farrell started attending rehabilitation meetings