We'll redouble efforts to help players with mental health issues – Farrell
THE tragic recent death of Galway hurler Niall Donohue will make the Gaelic Players' Association (GPA) "redouble" their efforts to detect and support any members suffering mental health issues.
That was the strong message from GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell at yesterday's AGM, where warm tributes were paid to the late Galway star by his peers.
"Like everyone associated with Niall through club and county, we share the sense of purpose emerging from the bitter grief of his loss," Farrell said.
"We must redouble our efforts to make sure that the young men in society struggling are encouraged to engage with support, that we hear the call and recognise the signs of their distress," he added, underlining the GPA's partnership with support organisations like Pieta House and Headstrong.
Farrell has led by example by speaking openly about his own depression in the past.
Former Limerick football goalkeeper Seamus O'Donnell became the latest GAA player to speak out about his battle with depression yesterday, following similar revelations by Cavan's Alan O'Mara and former Cork senior Conor Cusack.
Farrell said that the GPA has had 16,000 requests from their 2,000-plus members in the past four years and that these ranged from the provision of custom-fitted mouth guards to supporting a player with a gambling addiction going into a residential treatment programme.
He said Donohue's death meant that 2013 was "a year of great success, joy and achievement closed with tragedy and sadness" and that his memory must inspire the GPA to "make a real difference."
The players' group launched a new 'Sponsor a Scholar' scheme yesterday, whereby donors are being asked to commit €2,000 to sponsor a player for a year or longer in a county of their choice.
Supporting player development and establishing the agreed 'players charter' in every county board are issues currently top of the union's priorities.
Former Kildare star Dermot Earley is the GPA's new president, replacing Brian Whelehan, who has stepped down after six years ahead of taking over as Offaly's new senior hurling manager.
Galway hurler David Collins took over from outgoing GPA secretary Ronan Sweeney (Kildare) and Donal Og Cusack remains chairman.
* Tomorrow's Leinster SFC club quarter-final between Portlaoise and Longford Slashers has been called off due to a family bereavement in the Laois club.
The game will be refixed for next weekend. A date and time have yet to be confirmed.