‘I was in a very dark place… I got in contact with the people I needed to go to’

The new Women’s National League well-being programme will make a huge difference to players, says Athlone Town’s Laurie Ryan.

he FAI are collaborating with the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention to offer a programme that promotes mental health and well-being within the league.

Ryan opened up about her personal struggles after suffering a concussion in 2019 while playing GAA. The 28-year-old spent months on the sideline recovering. Her work life suffered due to painful headaches, and Ryan reached out for support.

“I was in a very dark place,” said Ryan.

“I spent a lot of time in my bedroom on my own. At the time I was playing GAA and the WGPA had a player initiative with Clare. I just rang them up and said I really don’t feel like myself. They put me in contact with the people I needed to go to. I’m lucky that I had those supports and those people to talk to.”

The midfielder, who won April’s player of the month award, says that the new initiative will be an essential resource for players balancing football with work, college, or school.

“It can be quite stressful,” Ryan continued.

“It’s a long season balancing work, school and playing football as it’s not professional. There’s a lot of very young girls within the league. It’s such a fantastic initiative. Any time you speak about mental health is great.

“It will do really well in the league. It was probably something that was missing. It’s great that it’s being responded to. It’s fantastic. It will really bolster what we can do to help girls outside of football. It seems like a taboo issue to think about going for counselling, but I’d recommend it to everyone.”

Back on the pitch, Athlone have been in superb form of late. Tommy Hewitt’s side started the season slowly, until a run of six consecutive wins propelled them to third in the table.

“In house we knew we were capable of it,” Ryan added.

“It can be hard waiting for the results to come, but once they did and we went on a run it was easy. I think a big thing for us is how we respond to Saturday’s loss and how we regroup. That’s the sign of a team that’s going well.”

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