Mayo positivity a shining example
The past six months in the GAA have been very eventful, both on and off the pitch. We have had new rules (the arrival of the black card), a new president elected, for the first time, from Cavan, and a controversial new TV deal.
But there have been other things that have attracted headlines beyond the sports pages. In October, former Cork hurler Conor Cusack went public about his battle with depression and spoke about how he had contemplated suicide at one point.
Last month, Waterford's Wayne Hutchinson – who has played for both the county's senior hurlers and senior footballers – also talked to this newspaper about how he had suffered from depression and explained how it had affected his life, as well as his family's.
These brave young men deserve huge credit for raising awareness of mental health issues that affect families all over the country, because I am sure it helps many others who identify with them.
In March, the GAA also filled news pages as Clare hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald spoke to third-level students about the dangers of drugs, acknowledging that the problem had entered the team dressing-room a couple of years back. His message to these young people was that this was an issue that they were going to face in their lives and they must be prepared to say 'no'.
Of course, all these problems – along with the 'old reliable' of alcohol abuse – surface from time to time in the GAA because Gaelic games is an integral part of Irish society and it is inevitable that club members and players are affected by issues that trouble us in all walks of life.
To this end, it is heartening to see someone taking a pro-active step, with Mayo GAA this week organising a three-day camp in Castlebar for the county's U-16 footballers and hurlers in conjunction with the Mayo Mental Health Association.
Along with regular coaching sessions in which the stars of tomorrow will have their skills nurtured, the seminar also features workshops and talks on such important topics as 'mind your mental health', 'misuse of drugs', 'understanding diabetes', and 'nutrition and healthy living'.
The organisers of this camp deserve much praise for taking positive action. As the saying goes, "prevention is better than cure".