Life before Macra wasn't straightforward for this Beaufort man

Beaufort postman Trevor Coffey struggled with mental health problems before he joined up with Macra, but he told Tadhg Evans that he has come a long way since

Trevor Coffey
Trevor Coffey

Tadhg Evans

It's a long way from Tralee to Augusta National - 3,500 miles, if you're counting - but even in Denny Street's Grand Hotel, the excitement at what Tiger Woods has just achieved is pulsing through the Pikeman Bar. It's a tonic on an otherwise dreary, drizzly Sunday evening.

A flawed genius he may be, his talent, perhaps the greatest ever known to sport, has transcended all his failings. It's clear the feel-good factor at his return from crippling injuries and personal turmoil has pushed his faults to the sideline.

Whether it should or not is a debate for another day. Everyone loves a comeback; we'll let the people enjoy this one for now.

Away from the TV screen beaming images confirming Woods as Masters Champion, Trevor Coffey is recounting his own comeback story.

The full-time postman (33) will be out at 7am tomorrow to sort his letters and parcels in Killarney, though you wouldn't guess he's in a rush to bed going by his gentle nursing of a cappuccino. But we'll forgive him that; he's still buzzing from a trip to Kilkenny, where Kerry had its first-ever winner of Macra's Mr Personality contest, John Martin Carroll of the Causeway branch.

Indeed, Trevor is off to Causeway after this for the homecoming celebrations.

"It's like the Rose of Tralee for male Macra members," Trevor jokes. Quite the thought.

Life before Macra wasn't straightforward for the Beaufort man. Life since has seen something of a transformation.

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He fell short in recent days of becoming Macra's vice-president in Munster, but it might be unfair to reflect on what he hasn't achieved over what he has. He ran with a manifesto focussed on mental-health issues, with farmers' mental health a particular concern, and he received good feedback for this.

His interest comes from past struggles of his own; they were a few years back now, but not so far back that he can't remember the pain and how Macra helped him through.

"I was 28 when I joined Mid Kerry Macra, and I was suffering from mental-health problems at the time," he explains. "I suppose anxiety would be the right word for it.

"There were bad days. Days when I just wanted to stay in my room and not talk to anyone.

"My sister had suggested I give Macra a go, and I started out with a table quiz. I've gone from those bad days to taking part in impromptu public speaking, tag rugby, a few other things as well.

"One of the first events I went to as a supporter was the Macra National Talent Competition as a supporter. I couldn't get over the standard, it was so high, but that's what Macra can do: it showed me how much it can develop a person's skills.

"It did that with me, and I went from having anxiety to being on the national council, being chairperson of my committee, and running for Munster Vice-president. I didn't win, but I was told I ran a very good campaign, and at the Mr Personality competition in Kilkenny, a lot of people thanked me for bringing up mental-health issues because they suffered themselves."

He finally makes some headway on his cappuccino as the conversation drifts towards rural Ireland and the struggles farmers face. Football teams often reflect the health of their parishes, and all over Kerry - especially south Kerry - clubs are being stretched and stretched again as they toil to field senior teams. It's something Trevor has noted as a sign of the cracks widening throughout rural Ireland. Men and women see the opportunities elsewhere, and so many can't justify staying put.

Macra is far from restricted to farmers, but they still form its core, and Trevor is all too aware of the occupation's downsides: he has a farming background himself and continues to help on his family's suckler farm, and through Macra he is in constant contact with farmers in mid Kerry, the county, and from up the country.

Most people can afford a break, but farmers must contend with lambing; calving; animals that need feeding and milking; land that needs tending to. Labour of love or not, it's a fierce commitment.

"There's very little chance of getting away for a holiday or taking time off - but farmers need a break too," he says.

"It's hard on people in rural Ireland at times. Most job opportunities are elsewhere. Farmers increasingly need good broadband because more and more stuff is done online now.

"Farmers need to open up, and they need to be able to join something that gives them opportunities to meet people, get them out of their comfort zone, get the odd break away even up the country for events.

"I'd recommend Macra to anyone, and there are clubs all over the county. Even if you're playing with a football team, you can't go out on a Saturday before a match, you might not get to chat to your friends properly until a few days after a game.

"You need something else and you need to meet up with people. We all need a break."

To get in touch with a local Macra branch, message the Kerry Macra Facebook page. Macra Clubs from all over Kerry will also exhibit at the Kingdom County Fair at Ballybeggan Racecourse, Tralee, on May 12.


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