Hurling took a back step in Galway with the news of the tragic death of Niall Donohue. Niall is not the first young man to die in such sad circumstances, but being a household name in hurling meant the sad news spread far and wide.
The media pictures of Niall during the past week showed us a young man who was full of life and dedicated to his favourite sport. The night before his death he spoke to the Galway hurling manager, Anthony Cunningham.
The conversation was all about next year’s National Hurling League and Galway’s plans to start training. Twenty-four hours later the news broke of his death and the sadness which has landed in the rural Galway area of Kilbecanty was evident from the many tributes from Niall’s own club.
Kilbecanty is an intermediate club and only occasionally would one of its players manage to make the Galway senior team. Niall Donohue easily made the transition from club hurler to the heights of Croke Park, bearing testimony to his talent.
Not surprisingly he was the star man among his colleagues in the Kilbecanty club. They shared the excitement and delight at his elevation to inter-county hurling and, especially, when Galway lined out in Croke Park.
Niall captured an under-21 All-Ireland medal in 2011 and a Leinster senior medal in 2012. Despite losing to Kilkenny in the 2012 All-Ireland final his performances during the year earned him an All-Star nomination.
The sudden death of so many young people has left many families inconsolable and seeking answers which are not forthcoming. Niall Donohue’s death generated much publicity given his profile. But the sad reality is that many deaths in similar circumstances are only known within their local parish.
What makes these sudden deaths so tragic is that the individual may show little or no outward sign of stress or anxiety. The people most likely to spot the danger signs are close friends, even before family members.
Every player has one or more colleagues on a team with whom he is friendly. It behoves every club to encourage players to look out for a colleague who may be downbeat.
During the main playing season as the games come on a regular basis players are busy training and playing. At this time of the year as most competitions conclude and the evenings get dark much earlier, young men may find it difficult to cope without regular contact with their club colleagues.
Many also are in college where the pressure to succeed continues to grow. The ailing Irish economy and the prospects of employment are surely weighing on the minds of young people.
Grappling with so many issues is difficult for any individual and especially young men and women.
While the number of young people dying in tragic circumstances remains worrying, it would surely be much greater without the work of organisations such as the Samaritans. If any young person is reading this article I can assure them that the Samaritans will never judge you but will listen.
That attentive and caring approach has helped thousands in Ireland and further afield to cope with stress. The Kilkenny Samaritans can be contacted at 056-7765554 or 056-7765750. Their address is 2 Abbeybridge, Dean Street.
In most communities the GAA club continues to be a vibrant and active organisation. Relationships should be used in a positive way.