Drogheda United have announced that their home ground United Park will continue to be named as Head in the Game Park for the 2022 season. Ahead of the 2021 season, United Park was renamed to Head in the Game Park after a local Sinn Fein councilor, Joanna Byrne won a patron’s draw to choose a charity after which to name United Park.
Head In The Game is a mental health advocacy group that was initially founded by a small group of Dundalk FC fans following the tragic passing of Lilywhites groundsman and videographer Harry Taffe in July 2020. The Head In The Game committee has since grown to include fans of clubs across the country with the group’s presence and message spreading widely after a number of projects and collaborations with organisations such as the FAI and PFAI in recent seasons.
May 2021 saw each League of Ireland club captain in the Premier Division, First Division, and the Women’s National League wear Head in the Game armbands for Mental Health Awareness Month, while the group were also named an official charity partner of the PFAI and saw the PFAI Young Player of the Year award named after Head In The Game.
Speaking to BetweenTheStripes.net over the weekend, Drogheda United chairman Conor Hoey reiterated the Louth clubs dedication to promoting the cause of mental health not only among the club’s supporters but in the wider community also, hence the desire to continue the club’s partnership with Head In The Game for another season.
“As a club, we experienced some shocking news this weekend when we learned that one of our young supporters took his own life. To see the impact on his family and the wider community is utterly heartbreaking and reminded me why we worked with Head in the Game in the first place. It also made myself and all the board at Drogheda United Football Club resolve to do more this season to help those struggling with their mental health. Words are cheap…so we need to do more. We need workshops, helplines, counseling, whatever it takes, to reach out to those who are suffering. It is our responsibility as a community club. If we save one life or make a difference to one person, then it’s worth it. It’s ok to not be ok and it’s so important to have someone to talk to”, declared an emotional Drogheda chairman.
Also speaking to BetweenTheStripes.net following the announcement on Sunday was none other than Joanna Byrne, who explained her initial decision to select Head In The Game as the cause to name United Park after.
“Last year Drogheda United embarked on a fundraising endeavor to entice patrons with their sponsorship, who would then enter a draw to choose a charity close to their own hearts after which to name United Park for one season. I emerged successful sponsoring in my capacity as a local councilor and it was no question to me other than to call it “Head In The Game Park”.
“Having lost somebody very close to me some years ago to suicide, I’ve been a long time aware of the growing mental health challenge Ireland as a country and Drogheda as a town faces. When you see young Drogs putting on displays at matches with banners saying “It’s ok not to be ok” you quickly realise this is something that has to be embraced and their endeavors to confront the stigma of mental health must be supported in any way you can.”
“As a football fan the sentiments of “Don’t Turn Your Floodlights Off” and “Keep Your Head In The Game” resonated with me from the day HITG was launched and I always believed these were two taglines that initiated conversations and created awareness of the battles many of us face. The opportunity to rename United Park as Head In The Game Park was a huge honor for me and if the awareness it created and the platform it gave the group in their endeavors helped even one person stop, think and reach out for that help – then it’s paid itself off in dividends”, said Byrne.
Having joined the Drogheda United board in recent times, Byrne went on to state the club’s desire to not only continue the Head In The Game partnership but to embrace the cause in an even stronger manner going forward.
“As a board, we decided to continue the name for this season as we feel struggles with Mental Health is too prevalent in our community to turn away from right now. We as a club want to build on our work with Head In The Game and together hopefully continue to offer that bit of strength to Players, Staff, and Fans of the game we all love”, remarked Byrne.
One of Head In The Game’s founding members is former Dundalk FC kitman, Dean Arrowsmith. Despite having lived in Chicago for a number of years, where he works as a full-time football coach, Arrowsmith has been a driving force in the Head In The Game movement and currently occupies the role of chairman with Head In The Game. Speaking to Drogheda United.ie, Arrowsmith had this to say on the announcement:
“It’s a privilege and an honour for us to have our name used by Drogheda United FC for the second successive season. Our message is simple, we want to provoke a conversation about mental health and well-being in Irish football.”
“This fabulous gesture will only result in more people becoming aware of who we are and what we’re about. Huge thank you to all involved in making it happen and best of luck with the season ahead.”