To whom it concerns, it really struck a chord

There was once a Dunboyne footballer – no names, if you know, you know – who was selected for a county team despite not currying favour with the local Brains Trust.

That is actually not unique, as, towards the end of his tenure as Meath manager, Sean Boylan brought Damien Byrne into the county panel despite the fact that ‘Birdie’ hadn’t played a match with Summerhill at adult level at that time.

With the case involving our man, there was a slightly different angle to it in that those who were in charge of that particular Meath bunch were and remain very valued friends to yours truly.

Which was the only reason I was invited to join team and mentors for the post match feed. During and after the grub, quite a while after it in fact, I ended up in the company of our midfielder from that afternoon, Rory O’Connor from the Donaghmore/Ashbourne club.

Now, I’d never met the lad before and doubt he knew me from Adam. But, for whatever reason, we just hit it off immediately and have remained great pals ever since.

What he mightn’t realise though is just how much his own story his struck a chord with me, reassured me and driven me to keep rolling when a large portion of me wanted to pull up and drop out of the race. Read that whichever way you desire.

Any of us that have ever been in and around any sport surely know of persons who seemed destined for stardom but never reached the heights hoped and predicted for them.

Rory definitely adorned that bracket for me. Comparisons to those who went before the stars of the present are both unnecessary and unhelpful but, in fairness, probably unavoidable.

For what it’s worth, I was convinced Rory was about to join the pantheon of great Meath midfielders and to be quite honest for a long time wondered what had diverted A from becoming B.

Alas, thanks to the big man’s openness and searing honesty, it turns out his demons live under a black cloud this corner knows all too well. Actually, apologies if the football-related part of that comes across in the negative. Nothing could be further from the truth. For it is because of Rory’s ability at and unbridled passion for GAA that he changed his own life and by extension the lives of countless others.

Rory surveys the story from midfield for the ‘Moores’

However, at this point it is crucial to state that everybody’s unwanted visitors are unique to them. Like grief and dealing with same, it’s not a matter for comparisons. And, as I have often alluded to in this space, there’s no set menu set menu for dealing with matters of Mental Health, no one size fits all and absolutely no quick fixes.

Yet Rory, through his infectious humour and generosity of spirit has, courtesy of the Rory’s Stories brand, shown that there is a way of going through and dealing with mental health issues. Not only that, but that immeasurable good can branch out of that journey.

You see, again, while no two cases of this nature can or should be compared, there are large parts of my own journey along the same road which I can see in Rory’s. Specifically, that the rotten apple in the barrel of life festered from time in the education system.

Of course, nobody more than the man himself would attest that he never expected what started as a bit of craic over a few pints to turn into the wonderful entity it has. My friend, that it has is all down to yourself. Well, and Emma and big Joe of course!

Seriously though, your own strength of character, hard work and the transformative effect you have on people speak for themselves. Friday night last, what you often joked about in years past when our paths crossed, “I’ll know I’ve made it when I’m on the Late Late Show’ came through.

Still, as I sat getting quite emotional in between the laughs watching you, again, the humility and good nature which beam from you shone like a beacon. As evidenced by your promise kept to your former employer.

If I may, briefly, return to the similarities to my own story, Rory’s comparative illustration about the Leaving Cert was like hitting the BullsEye on my spin around this big old ball.

“Jimmy might be delighted with his getting 600 Points, but for Charlie to get 200 might be every bit as big an achievement”.

In other words, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I’ve travelled the same road. You’re a bit ahead of me on the road big fella, but your story drives me to keep the wheels turning. You’re leading 4-2 on the book count but I’m hoping the next kickout will break my way.

PS: You’re dead right about the Late Late being gone to sh** since Gaybo retired!

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