“THE benefit of talking and engaging with someone if we have problems in our lives is not something we should be ashamed of.”
That was the message of Leinster GAA Council Chairperson Martin Skelly and it was a view reinforced by the various guest speakers at an event entitled ‘Your Games, Your Health:The Link Between Sport & Wellbeing’ in Aras Laighean, Portlaoise as part of Laois Connects week.
Mr Skelly said the GAA was “a more caring” organisation than it was in the past. “We have to be involved in events such as this, promoting health and well being. These are tough times and there is nobody that hasn’t been touched by some tragedy where loneliness, alcohol or drugs were not involved.”
The Longford native revealed that he was “never as frustrated” when his neighour whom he’d been working alongside left on an errand but tragically didn’t return. “He ended his life. He was obviously in a tortured place and couldn’t share it. It is very important to tune into one’s feelings and help tease out problems if they exist.”
Sunday Game pundit and author of ‘Life, Death & Hurling’ in which he revealed he spoke with a psychologist, Michael Duignan said the GAA was “his redemption” following the death of his wife, Portlaoise native Edel (nee O’Connell) from cancer in 2009. The 1994 & ‘98 All-Ireland medal winner spoke of the various problems he encountered following his retirement from inter-county hurling.
He referred to the loneliness he endured at boarding school in Garbally. “I was a small fish in a big pond. You cried yourself to sleep and pretended everything was grand. It wasn’t right.”
Mr Duignan outlined that sport was a huge part of his life. “I loved it all but it is amazing how selfish you become. You never get the balance right. I lost my focus on work and Edel. We were happy but when we married her life changed, mine didn’t. She was left carrying the can.”
He candidly admitted, “When Edel was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer I’d to take stock and got help. I wasn’t good company to be around and I’m sure I was depressed even if I wasn’t diagnosed. There is a stigma. It needs to be lifted and it is great to see people like Alan Quinlan speaking out.”
Mr Duignan recalled how former team mates Joe Dooley and Pat Cleary urged him to take a look at him-self and he commented, “My life was in danger of going the wrong way. If people are struggling don’t be afraid to go talk to them. Generally the signs are there.”