A raw and honest outline of the battle with depression
Published 24/09/2016 | 00:00
A lot of important conversations in the area of mental health are taking place in sporting circles all over the country these days due to the honesty and bravery of Alan O'Mara.
The one-time regular Cavan Senior football goalkeeper was among the first of his generation to have the courage to highlight his own struggles, in the hope that it would help others with similar difficulties.
And given his background in journalism, it was perhaps only natural that O'Mara would put his innermost thoughts in book form.
The end result is 'The Best Is Yet To Come' which, as another mental health advocate from the world of sport, ex-Cork hurler Conor Cusack, states, is a 'compelling, honest, raw' account.
O'Mara doesn't believe in sugar-coating his experiences and that's precisely the way it should be if a book of this nature is to have any value.
Therefore, we read vivid descriptions of what was going through his mind on the two occasions when he seriously contemplated taking his own life.
In the first instance he was tempted to walk out in front of an approaching car while heading home after a festive night out.
The second occurrence came on the motorway when he was behind the wheel and got an urge to drive into the nearest wall.
Thankfully he didn't succumb to these most negative thoughts, with the second incident ending on a positive note as it gave him the strength he needed to open up to his mother about his problems.
This marked the start of a long, difficult journey which is an ongoing process, but one gets the impression by the end of this book that O'Mara is in a far better place now than he was then.
Given the high profile he has gained since his decision to speak out, many of the stories he recounts in the book will have been heard already either on television or radio.
Therefore, I was interested to learn a little more about his background, so it was news to me to find out he was born and bred in Donaghmede, the son of Dublin parents who decided to move to Cavan when their son was twelve years old.
As a child he loved reading and tended to isolate himself from his peers, but he was well able to look after himself too when the need arose as two incidents of bullying were put to bed quickly.
O'Mara did his Leaving Cert. at the age of 16 and responsibility was quickly thrust upon his shoulders when he became sports editor of the 'Cavan Post' newspaper when he was 17.
He went on to study journalism in D.C.U. but didn't give the course the attention it deserved as his depression was really kicking in and it was often the preferred option to stay in bed all day.
On the sporting side of things, football went from meaning absolutely everything to becoming a chore, something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
However, there is no doubt that his involvement as goalkeeper with the Cavan team which reached the All-Ireland Under-21 final in 2011 was a special achievement.
The publication of this book is well-timed, coming before the autobiographies of Ken McGrath and Kieran Donaghy which will be more likely to attract casual punters in the lead-up to Christmas.
Three years after speaking out about his battle, O'Mara's open and honest memoir is well worth the investment of time and money.
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