Wednesday 18 October 2017

'It's OK to say no'

Leo Gray

"It's OK to say no" – that was the keynote message from GAA icon, Eamonn O'Hara, to young teenagers at an alcohol awareness seminar in Sligo.

"It's OK to say no" – that was the keynote message from GAA icon, Eamonn O'Hara, to young teenagers at an alcohol awareness seminar in Sligo.

"There will always be peer pressure but it's important to remember that nobody has to take a drink if they don't want to," he told a large gathering at the Sligo Park Hotel last Thursday.

A non-drinker, O'Hara was the longest-serving player in the country until he retired from the inter-county scene earlier this year.

The 38-year-old star still plays for his club, Tourlestrane, with whom he won his eighth senior championship medal last week.

"I would never preach to young people about what they should or shouldn't do," he said. But I've seen the damage that alcohol can do to sportsmen. Young people should reflect on that side of things before making a lifestyle choice."

He said staying away from alcohol was never an issue for him.

He could survive in a football environment and in social gatherings without taking a drink.

"I tried alcohol when I was a young lad and I simply didn't like the taste of it. In my case, it was as simple as that.

"At first, there was a bit of pressure from my friends. But once they realised I had no interest in taking a drink, they accepted it.

"Socially, I enjoy the craic as much as anybody and I've never felt uncomfortable in the company of people who do drink.

There's a lot more peer pressure on young people today than there was when I was a teenager.

"But still the basic message is the same – it's OK to say no."

Tubbercurry captain, Colm McGee; Consultant Hepatologist, Dr. Stephen Stewart; and GAA Community Health Promotion officer, Colin Regan, were among the other speakers.

Cavan goalkeeper, Alan O'Mara, and former Leitrim footballer, Gareth Foley, also addressed the seminar.

The MC was BBC sports presenter, Austin O'Callaghan, and the funding partners were the North West Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

Organiser, David Keane, from St. Mary's GAA, club described the seminar as an outstanding success.

"There were some powerful contributions from the speakers.

The feedback from those in attendance, 50% of whom were were under 18 years, was very positive," he said.

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