O’Shea backs idea of chaplains for county sides

Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea has backed calls for chaplains to become part of inter-county backroom teams.

Former Offaly and Tipperary hurling boss, Fr Tom Fogarty, last week suggested that managers should assign personnel to help deal with crisis situations within squads.

O’Shea echoed Fr Fogarty’s sentiment at a Sport and Spirituality conference in Thurles on Saturday, admitting managers require backroom support to ensure player welfare is sufficiently catered for.

“It is part of the system in many countries; particularly the UK and Italy where players have access to people to talk to about spiritual and personal issues. With a lot of sports psychologists, there is already a crossover, but it could happen here in Ireland.

“Communication is key. When you are involved in top level sport, the more communication with players the better, in terms of seeing what is going on in their lives. Often a manager needs support for that, whether that be a sports psychologist or a chaplain.”

Reverend John Boyers, founder of Sports Chaplaincy UK, said Irish organisations were missing out on the advantages drawn from sports chaplaincy. Rev. Boyers, chaplain to Manchester United since 1992, expressed regret that the appointment of a chaplain to Ulster Rugby in the late 90s had failed to spur significant growth here.

“A sports chaplain deals with players, deals with people on the administrative side and deals with supporters.

“There seems to be an increasing awareness that those who are engaged with people in sport have a duty of care to them. Part of that care might be to care spiritually as well as in other ways. A lot of sporting organisations have human resource departments and personnel departments trying to cater for issues at work or over contracts.

“But what happens when a wife dies, when a child is rushed into hospital with a serious disease? What happens when there is a serious traffic accident that kills someone in the family belonging to a player? The question then is how are they going to cope?

“Trained pastoral people are what we need. It is surprising Ulster have a chaplain, but the other provinces don’t. Their chaplain was appointed before the turn of the millennium and you would have hoped that the other three provinces would follow suit.”

Fr Tom Fogarty added: “I think sports chaplaincy, in the GAA, is going to happen. It is a matter of time.”


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