Fr Tom envisages bigger role for club chaplains

A leading GAA figure has called for chaplains to become part of the make-up of the inter-county backroom team. Former Offaly and Tipperary hurling boss, Fr Tom Fogarty, believes chaplains can play a key role in dealing with “crisis situations” within a squad.

Fr Tom envisages bigger role for club chaplains

He also believes Ireland lags behind both England and America in recognising the link between sport and spirituality. Fr Fogarty said inter-county players are often weighed down by personal matters outside the field of play but have no one to turn to for guidance or comfort.

“If you look at what Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte went through in the last number of years, losing key players such as Paul McGirr and Cormac McAnallen.

“You can imagine the impact that would have had on Mickey Harte, but also on the Tyrone panel as well. What we are looking at is has the chaplain a role as to who picks up the pieces, who helps players and managers deal with a crisis situation such as that.

“For years we have had school chaplains, hospital chaplains and I think this is an area Irish sport needs to look at.

“America and England are way ahead of us as it is very common over there to have a chaplain associated with a team. All high-profile Premiership [sic] teams have a chaplain as part of their set-up.

“Managers are recognising over there that a chaplain may have a role to play.”

With gambling addiction now more prevalent than ever in GAA circles, Fr Fogarty called on managers to set a precedent by enlisting the services of a chaplain.

“I know myself when you are over a team the first thing you want to do is get the players physically and mentally fit for a game.

“You want to make sure their skills base is perfect. You tick all those boxes, but what happens the week before the game when a player loses a parent or a brother or a fiancée? What happens if a player is caught up in gambling? What happens if a player loses their job? Who is there to help them through all that?

“It doesn’t matter how good a player is or how good their skills are, if they are carrying baggage or there are issues in their life that are impacting on them, they won’t reach their potential on the field of play.”

Fr Fogarty is the driving force behind this weekend’s conference at St Patrick’s College, Thurles, entitled Exploring the link between Sport and Spirituality.

The conference, which will run on Friday evening and Saturday, features presentations from Rev. John Boyers, chaplain to Manchester United, and Tipperary hurling boss Eamon O’Shea, among others. Rev. Boyers will address conference participants on his time at Old Trafford, while O’Shea will provide an insight on how best to prepare players for the big day.

nSee the conference brochure at http://www.stpats.ie/about/conferences or email sportsandspirituality@stpats.ie/tfogarty@stpats.ie. or call (0504) 21201.

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