The Gaelic Players Association today announced the launch of ‘We Wear More Than Our County Colours’, an internal campaign focusing on the emotional health and wellbeing of county players.

The aim of the campaign is to encourage and normalize conversations between players around the more emotional aspects of their lives and to help them develop effective coping mechanisms for times when things are not going so well.

Featuring a visually-compelling short film highlighting the many issues that can often trigger emotional reactions for players, the campaign is aimed at encouraging players to look out for each other, to recognize signs of distress and to encourage intervention through conversation and support.

Issues such as retirement, relationship break-ups, depression, stress, financial difficulties, addiction problems, performance and anxiety all feature in ‘We Wear More’.

The theme ‘We Wear More Than our County Colours’ – refers to the fact that behind the often high profile public persona of a county player, the individual wears more than the jersey and is frequently vulnerable to emotional distress.

Strong athletic identity, a characteristic of many elite footballers and hurlers despite their amateur status, can lead to a player struggling to cope with transition, serious injury or simply managing their dual career. ‘We Wear More’ will help raise self-awareness among the playing body and prepare players for the many adverse situations which may arise during their careers.

Speaking about the campaign launch, GPA Chief Executive Dessie Farrell said: “The GPA has a long-standing commitment to promoting good mental health both internally within our membership and in society in general. Our nationwide personal coaching programme, our counselling programme and confidential members help line continue to provide critical support for players.

“However, we felt that it was important at this juncture to focus on a campaign tailored specifically for county players, identifying the various issues that can trigger strong emotional reactions for these young men. We are acutely conscious of the vulnerability of this particular demographic in terms of suicide and believe that a focused, internal approach would help encourage players to talk more openly to each other and to identify team-mates who may be in difficulty.”

The GPA believes that by encouraging county players to engage in conversations about emotional wellbeing that this can have a positive impact on communities all over Ireland, encouraging young people in clubs, schools, colleges and in wider society to talk about their problems.

The campaign features the following county players: Michael Murphy (Donegal), Padraig Brehony (Galway), Seamus Hennessy (Tipperary), Alan O'Mara (Cavan), Padraig Collins (Clare), Conal Keaney (Dublin), Richie Hogan (Kilkenny), Colm Begley (Laois), Eoin Cadogan (Cork), Rob Hennelly (Mayo), Jonny Cooper (Dublin), Ciaran McKeever (Armagh), Lee Chin (Wexford), Niall McNamee (Offaly).