MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: UCC minds focus on mental health

I was going to kick off this Monday by saying that mental health had popped up on the agenda once again last week, but it doesn’t seem to drift too far from the agenda at any stage nowadays.

The awareness of a need to maintain good mental health among sportspeople, for whom good physical health is a given, is now a topic that is front and centre. No harm, either. Only last week England cricketer Jonathan Trott dropped out of his side’s trip to Australia to deal with stress-related issues.

I don’t quite know what to make of his Australian opponents’ comments that they won’t make his illness a topic for their sledging in the next Ashes clash with England, mind. Should you really have to applaud people for being big enough not to mock other sportspeople about one of their team-mates being sick? The openness about maintaining your mental health is welcome, of course, with high profile players across all sports showing commendable frankness about their struggles in that regard. In that context it’s good to see Universtity College Cork sports clubs joining the drive to spread awareness of the matter.

Next Thursday week, December 12, UCC’s successful Fitzgibbon Cup team of 2013 will receive their medals at a function in the Mardyke Pavilion, but significant though this is for the couple of dozen players who pick up silverware, the real business of the evening occurs later.

The evening will also see the College GAA Club launch a mental health initiative whereby the organisation Aware will have its logo and web address (www.aware.ie) stitched onto the sleeve of all UCC GAA senior jerseys for both male and female teams for the 2014 championship.

It’s common to see people from all walks of life saying the first step when they’re going through a rough time in this regard is to recognise that there are options available to you to help. Making people conscious of those services is a laudable enterprise, particularly as it seems that younger men, specifically, are often identified as a group which need encouragement in this area.

You don’t have to wait until next week if you want to make a positive contribution yourself, by the way. UCC and CIT are playing tonight in the Third Level Senior Hurling League final at 7pm in CIT’s grounds, and there will be a nominal charge of €2 for the game with all proceeds going to Aware. What else are you doing tonight?

NFL back in vogue, but does Ricky still suck?

When exactly did the NFL become so trendy again? I am not referring to the arctic-temperature festival of early-season Gaelic football we all endure in March, but the American game — the gridiron, man — which is currently in full flow.

There are TV programmes on Channel 4 and Setanta about it. My Twitter timeline is clogged with GAA stars waxing lyrical about Manning and Brady (or waxing a lot more lyrical than when you ask them about Cooper or Nash, anyway). Finally, in a moment of online weakness, I think my long-simmering ambition to own a nailhead high-performance, colour-contrast sideline official NFL merchandise hoodie may be about to be realised in time for Christmas, post permitting.

It’s interesting that pals of mine who fell for the American game the first time round, when it enjoyed a brief vogue in the early ’80s, can be dated by the teams they follow: the Redskins, who were then powered by John Riggins, say, or the Bears and their Super Bowl team of ’85 — Sweetness, Jim McMahon, the Fridge and so forth.

When I lived in the States I went to an NFL game: Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland, against the Raiders. Myself and my younger brother ended up among the home support, who were climbing the walls with excitement as that year — 1995 — was the Raiders’ first back in Oakland after over a decade in Los Angeles.

That excitement revealed itself as a Nuremberg Rally-type hysteria, much of it channelled in raw fury at Ricky Watters of the Eagles. A large man with a variety of tattoos walked up and down among us roaring “Ricky sucks! Ricky sucks!” into our faces, and everybody roared “Ricky sucks!” back at him because it seemed a spectacularly bad idea not to.

When he got to me my mind went blank.

Him: “Ricky sucks!”

Me: “... (looks to brother).”

Brother: “Ricky sucks! (looks to brother) Who is this guy?”

Getting to the core of the issue in NYC

Last week I came across the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2013, always a decent starting point if you want to have a cut off Amazon in the first week ofDecember. However, I only became aware of a lack of sports books on said list when someone tweeted about it.

This is highly unusual, not so much because the New York Times is such a champion of sportswriting, but because American sportswriting is held up as the best around.

It might just be that this has been a dud year for American sportswriting: I have to confess that I haven’t been keeping a close eye on what’s been coming out, though a friend texted to stress his enthusiasm for Collision Low Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff, about American football.

If you are in the market for some American writing this Christmas and are crestfallen by this turn of events, I suggest you a) get out more and b) switch on your browser and click on a copy from the Best American series which comes out every year. This collection ranges from Travel, Poetry, Essays and so on for the year in question (you’d want a full 12 months to get through them, mind).

The orthodoxy in Irish press-boxes is you’re not regarded as a serious sportswriter unless you get the Best American Sportswriting as soon as it’s published, and it’s usually excellent, but do yourself a favour. Instead of following the herd, pick up the Best American Magazine Writing of the year, and you’ll have a wider spread of subjects, as well as the crème de la crème of sportswriting.

If you need a gift idea...

I am out among you, my public, next weekend. Next Sunday I am attending a festival in Dingle called Other Voices.

Yes, Other Voices is known to you as the gathering of classy musical acts such as Amy Winehouse and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly over the years, but you needn’t worry that my version of Me And Bobby McGee (talking intro thrown in for free) is on the playlist. I’ll be talking about my book GAAconomics to Jim Carroll as part of the Banter programme.

Apologies if that tone comes across as a bit Lord Copper (“I am as readily available to the lowliest... ” — he thought for a moment — ”... book reviewer”).

I simply wanted to make you aware that with Christmas on the horizon, what better gift, with a personalised autograph, could you think of (and that’s enough of that, more of the NFL memories next week if you don’t mind – ed).



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