Oisin McConville encourages clubs to attend Irish Life Healthy Club Conference

Former Armagh footballer, Oisin McConville, believes the Irish Life GAA Healthy Clubs programme is playing a valuable role in destigmatising mental health issues in Ireland.

McConville will be the keynote speaker at the 2022 Irish Life GAA Healthy Club Conference in Croke Park on Saturday, November 12, when the conference theme will be ‘Living our Values’.

A club and county All-Ireland winner with Crossmaglen Rangers and Armagh and recently appointed as Wicklow senior football team manager, McConville has also been a member of Crossmaglen Rangers’ vibrant Healthy Club project team.

“When people think about Healthy Clubs they think about all kinds of facets, but the first thing a lot of people might think of when they think of health is physical health,” says McConville.

“But I think we’ve broken down a lot of barriers now in terms of mental health in terms of the stigma around it and what’s the best way to deal with it if you’re not in a brilliant place in your head.

“Another big one for me, and this is something I’ve seen with a lot of younger ones now, is the self-awareness thing. If you’re not aware that you’re struggling mentally or bypassing your mental health a bit, then you’re in a tight spot because you don’t really know what to do.

“I think the more education we do about it the greater awareness we’ll achieve, and to have an organisation like GAA where you now have Healthy Club officers in so many clubs all over the country, that’s a huge asset. A lot of them are very, very proactive in improving both the physical and mental wellbeing of their club’s members.

“When I was growing up the GAA was all about what’s happening on the pitch, but now an awful lot of it is about what’s going on off the pitch. And I think that’s a very positive development.”

A general view of a stall during the GAA National Healthy Club Conference at Croke Park Stadium, in Dublin.

A general view of a stall during the GAA National Healthy Club Conference at Croke Park Stadium, in Dublin.

A number of other well-known GAA players and figures will contribute with McConville to the theme of ‘Living our Values’ at the 2022 National Irish Life Healthy Club Conference.

Workshops exploring how we can bring to life the values that are common across the GAA, LGFA, and Camogie associations, including: Community Identity & Pride, Teamwork and Volunteerism, Inclusiveness, and Player Welfare & Respect will be part of the conference programme of events.

The conference is free to attend and McConville is urging as many clubs as possible to come along because it’s such an valuable learning environment where cross-pollination of ideas is a big part of the ethos of the event.

“Roisin Murtagh is the Healthy Club Officer in our club and she seems to have a different idea every week,” says McConville.

“I know so many clubs follow one another on social media to get tips on what they could do themselves in the Healthy Club space.

“The conference itself is also great way to exchange ideas and I think that’s a huge thing. When it comes to what you do on a pitch as a club you often try to keep good ideas to yourself, but when it comes to the Healthy club project we’re trying share knowledge and get as many clubs as possible to sample the different aspects of health and wellbeing.”

To register for the Irish Life GAA Healthy Club Conference or for more information regarding the Healthy Club Project please visit: https://www.gaa.ie/my-gaa/community-and-health/

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By John Harrington Tue 1st Nov