The Donegal senior club final takes place this Sunday in Ballybofey between Glenswilly and Kilcar. The latter have been one of the strong favourites from the outset of this year’s campaign. To date, they haven’t disappointed. Under Martin McHugh's guidance, Kilcar have improved considerably this year.
Glenswilly, on the other hand, have been struggling to perform to their potential this season. Still, I feel that Glenswilly will not lie down and they will relish the ‘underdog’ tag. I hope that we have a close contest and would like to wish both teams all the best for the game. That’s diplomacy for you!
As the launch of my autobiography ‘Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer’ draws near, I need to reiterate that all proceeds from the sale of the book will be given to Pieta House, Donegal. The following story puts a human side to what Pieta is all about:
“We can all have hard days, but what happens when those days become weeks, even months?
That was the harsh reality Seán faced four years ago. Growing up, he was a happy-go-lucky guy from a large family. He loved football and hanging out with friends. His family was heavily involved in businesses in the local area. He was your average guy.
Just before the recession hit, Seán's father acquired a new business and he was drafted in to look after it. It was a great opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands. Unfortunately, after a while, his father fell into financial trouble which left Seán pumping every bit of money he earned back into the business. It was a tough time for the whole family, but especially Seán.
''I was very positive at the start, I was very strong. I felt I was really able to conquer anything but for a year and a half it was a constant battle of coming into work and trying to keep things going. I couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. I thought I was never going to be able to pay off the debt.''
Alongside his work troubles, Seán was also dealing with the breakdown of a relationship at home. As a result, his confidence and happiness took some major knocks over the next few years. Eventually, he decided to contact a family doctor who sent him to a counsellor in the local area. But his troubles still persisted.
''I remember just feeling like every night going to sleep was a hard thing, every day coming home from work was hard. At least when I was working the days would pass and I didn't have time to think.
''I used to show an awful brave face at work. No one knew what I was going through. ''
But Seán couldn't keep a brave face on at home. During the course of a year, he tried to take his life three times. After one attempt he found himself in Wexford General Hospital where he was appalled at the services offered to people in his situation.
''I went into the room where they were stitching me up and the nurse said to me, 'You need help don't you' and I said, 'Yea, I do need help.' So they said back to me, 'Can you come in on Thursday.' This was Sunday morning and I just looked at her and laughed and said, 'I won't be here next Thursday' and she said, 'That's the soonest time someone can speak to you.'
''Walking out of the hospital that day I said to myself, 'is that the kind of help that's out there for people in this situation'?''
Feeling desperate, he returned to his local GP seeking help. His Doctor told him to contact Pieta House. Seán did, and it was one of the best decisions of his life.
''I rang Pieta House and told them how I was feeling. They seemed to be experts in suicidal thoughts and self-harm so I thought if anyone can help me it will be these guys.
''So I went up to Pieta House and did the interview, then the next day they rang me back to say, 'Seán we would like to see you again.' Even when they said that I immediately felt like there were people out there to help. That gave me a bit of light.''
Throughout his sessions, Seán began to feel like himself again. Slowly but surely he started to regain his confidence.
''Going back to Pieta House and going through it week by week I could see myself getting better. The whole thing about Pieta House is training your thoughts. They teach you how to get drama out of your life and stop doing things that aren't good for you.
''A lot of the answers you know yourself but it is not until you hear yourself saying them over and over again that you realise. If you stay clear of drama and stay clear of things that are not good for you your life slowly improves.''
As he began to get himself back on his feet, a series of events shook Seán's world again. Two young men he played football with both took their lives.
At their funerals, Sean was wracked with guilt. He began to wonder what he could have done to help. If they had known what he had been through, would they have come to him for advice? So Sean took the very brave decision to speak out about his experiences.
Talking to a local radio station, he told the public exactly what he had gone through, the ups and the downs, his whole story.
Since then he has committed himself to spreading his message in the future. Going forward he offers this advice to anyone found in a similar situation.
''You're feeling a sickness. It would be very hard to help yourself to get out of it. I would say it would be near impossible.
''Talking to family can help a little bit but I don't think it is the answer either. You have to go talk to someone professional. That's why I totally recommend Pieta House because they totally saved me without a doubt. Talking to professionals with experience, that deal with this every day is the only way.
''They have a way of making you understand yourself. You learn how to improve your life and fix any problems you have. They help you to understand what is good for you and what is not good for you and how to make your own life better so you can get through depression.'' (Her.ie)
There are many Seáns out there. Pieta House can help. The book launch on Saturday 22nd October in the Abbey Hotel is open to everyone. Throw-in is at 8pm. I’d love to see you there.
Keeping the faith!