At the recent launch of the Limerick senior hurling championship, the Monaleen jersey stood out — and for all the right reasons.
In amongst the usual array of sponsors emblazoned across the various shirts was a red jersey carrying the helpline number of Pieta House, a non-profit organisation focused on preventing suicide and self-harm.
It is an extremely positive move which was triggered last year when Monaleen’s long-time sponsor pulled the plug on their involvement with the club which is located on the periphery of Limerick city.
While clubs officials were busy attempting to source a new sponsor, one of the senior players approached chairperson Caroline O’Kane and floated the idea of carrying the Pieta House logo and helpline number on the front of their jerseys.
“I jumped at the suggestion, I thought it was a fantastic idea,” recalls O’Kane.
“I asked the player in question to see were Pieta House okay with this. And sure they were only mad for it.”
The new set of jerseys didn’t arrive until the second half of last year and so didn’t get their first run out until the respective championships resumed in Limerick following the county’s All-Ireland hurling final win.
This, therefore, is the first year where the Monaleen senior hurlers and footballers have donned the jerseys for every challenge, league, and championship game.
O’Kane continued: “We haven’t had an incident of suicide, but that is not to say there wouldn’t be one tomorrow. Neither does it say that there aren’t players on our senior team who are suffering silently. That is the whole problem with suicide, especially here in Limerick. It is silent. You very often don’t know that someone is suffering until you are looking for them.
O’Kane added: “Fellas are very slow to talk or ask for help. I know. I am the mother of three sons. But if a message is directly in front of somebody, you are getting it across that there is help out there and number two, it is okay to ask.
"If you have the senior team in your local club wearing that message, it takes away the stigma of asking for help. On every level, it was a win.
“Quite a few of our senior players would be coaching our underage teams. It takes the message all the way down to our younger teams when they see the bigger lads wearing these jerseys and saying that it is okay to wear that message.
"It takes that bit of social stigma out of depression. These are big burly men who have no problem taking someone down on the field and equally, they will wear a depression number on their chest.”
Their weekly club lotto and other small fundraisers mean Monaleen, for the time being, are able to get by without a main club sponsor.
The Dublin footballers, for a Leinster SFC quarter-final against Westmeath back in 2013, carried the Pieta House logo on the front of their jersey, while the jersey of Cork club Russell Rovers also carries the Pieta House helpline number.
“In the absence of a main corporate sponsor, there was a window there where we could put out another message. We wanted to go with something that was there for everyone. It is about getting the message out into the world, where it is sometimes not so easy to talk.”