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24 May 2022

Clonmel Mamogies tackle mental health awareness project

A group of Clonmel women who took up camogie to learn the basic skills of the game in a four-week course have branched out to tackle a more fundamental life skill set - equipping themselves to combat mental health challenges they may face in their lives.
The powerful group dynamic that was evident when the women came together to do camogie drills has created something very special that has had a meaningful impact on their lives.
The women who came together to play camogie in July this year by rejuvenating the camogie club in St Mary’s, aware of the strength of character within the group, set themselves a serious life challenge for the month of November.
They designed and implemented a programme of challenges to do on every day of the mental health awareness month of November.
The initiative arose as a result of the positivity generated by the camogie activities which have continued well beyond the four-week plan and are here to stay.
Those participating believed that they could tap into the enormous potential of the group, expand their objectives and the mental health awareness project they took on has been a very positive experience for them.
The daily challenges empowered the women to manage stress and anxiety in their lives.
The project enabled them in a proactive way to protect their mental health and gives them the confidence to combat mental health issues if they faced them in everyday life.
For every daily challenge, which included a book club, zumba, screen free evenings, yoga or writing a Limerick, the ladies donated a euro.
What was collected during the month of November will be presented to C-Saw, the Clonmel-based mental health organisation.
The women are now at the end of the month-long programme of activities and they are determined to carry on engaging in some of the mental health activities so that they will become a feature of their lives and complement the camogie sessions.
Among the group members is Karen Ferris, who is a widow with three young children who lost her Clonmel-based Garda Sergeant Martin to cancer three years ago during the month of November.
Karen, who had never played hurling, wanted to be able to puck around at home, on the beach and on a pitch with her children.
She is thrilled with the manner in which the Mamogies (camogies for mams and others group), took on the mental health initiative that has enriched their lives and that of their families and benefited the community as a whole.
“The focus on mental health has been amazing for us all. I am a single mother, I am a widow, I have three young kids, life is busy trying to juggle everything and it was brilliant for me to get the space to have time for myself and enjoy meeting people and that is very precious to me now. The Mamogie group is very important in my life and the mental health challenges have given me so much and I can see it has had a very meaningful impact on everybody taking part,” said Karen.
Another member and former Galway camogie player, Mags Leahy, said that the existence of the Mamogie group had created a wonderful opportunity for the women.
It allowed them, she said, to explore more about themselves and to use the positivity that was evident from the very start to give them all a life changing experience through taking on the mental health project.
“The third week in we suggested to the women to bring helmets to training and they just went for it flat out. That was a ‘Wow’ moment for us all and it was obvious from that point that the group would continue long after the four-week period. From that moment on it just took on a life of its own, it is all about the beauty of making connections with people. After the month we all have a better understanding of one another, a greater appreciation of one another. Being part of this creative, vibrant group broadens your mind,” said Mags Leahy.
Another Mamogie, Audrey Mahadevaiah, said that the sense of togetherness they had all felt in the group during the camogie training which had been greatly strengthened by the mental health awareness activities was very important to them all.
“These mental health activities are learning us all how to just enjoy the moment and not to worry about the pressures and worries you face in your life. It helps you generate a mindfulness and an enjoyment of doing a fun activity in a group situation and feeling part of a community,” said Audrey.
Audrey said that it was clear that a lot of women were working from home because of Covid and were not out meeting people.
“When the chance came for them to get out and meet a new group of people they just went for it and the camogie session every Friday night became the highlight of the week for them,” said Audrey.
The camogie sessions are held every Friday night. It all started in May when former All-Ireland winner and St Mary’s club member Donnacha Fahey realised that his young daughter had nowhere to play camogie.
So Donnacha and Michael Reilly, hurling coach who is assisted by Mags and Zoe Farrell, decided to get the camogie club in St Mary’s going again after it had lapsed for a few years.
“The camogie for the U11’s team just took off. The timing was just right, it tapped into something during Covid and now it is fantastic to see the young girls play their hurling at the same time as the boys their age on a Saturday morning. There is just a great buzz about it. There are now eighty young girls playing, amazing,” said Karen.
The interest in the camogie training for U11 just took off and has been a spectacular success and mothers who witnessed how valuable this activity was for their daughters decided to give it a go themselves and the Mamogie group was born.
The Mamogies group is open to anybody within the town and beyond to join and women with absolutely no experience of ever holding a hurley are very welcome as are women who might have played it when they were younger.
“We will look after everybody who wants to join from the beginner up,” said Mags Leahy.
Karen said that long before mental health month it was obvious to her that meeting the group every Friday for camogie was a very positive activity for mental health anyway. You are at a certain age when your circle of friends is shrinking due to family commitments or work and along comes this opportunity to make so many new friends, do something that is fun and have hurling, and now so much more, in common with so many,” said Karen. “Now when St Mary’s are playing it is just wonderful to see young girls and also their mothers pucking around on pitch before the game. It felt a bit strange at first for us to bring hurleys for a puck around to a match the club were playing in but it is just normal now which is wonderful for everybody. Before the camogie and the Mamogies started I just went to the GAA centre and dropped off my son there. Now me, all the mothers and all their daughters feel every bit as part of the club as their sons and brothers,” said Karen.

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