Dundalk FC, in association with Fyffes, is delighted to announce a new programme in memory of the club’s late groundsman and videographer, Harry Taaffe, who tragically passed away by suicide in July 2020.

The Dundalk FC Harry Taaffe Mental Health & Wellbeing Programme will be rolled out over the coming months and is designed to educate and increase awareness about mental health and to try and challenge the stigma associated with mental health difficulties.

The campaign will be supported by Fyffes and will be coordinated by Derek Pepper, mental health officer with Head in the Game, who has been working in the mental health sector for almost 20 years.

The programme features a timetable of activities which will get underway this week when the club will link up with See Change, a national partnership working to change minds about mental health problems in Ireland, to participate and promote their annual Green Ribbon campaign around our SSE Airtricity League fixture with Shelbourne at Casey’s Field on September 2nd.

Staff from Dundalk FC and Fyffes will also take part in a safeTALK workshop, the HSE’s internationally recognised programme that prepares participants to recognise and engage with people who may be having thoughts of suicide. Further safeTALK workshops will be available to members of the club’s coaching staff and the local community.

To mark Mental Health Day in October, Dundalk FC will also host a Mental Health Information and Awareness Event, featuring guest speakers with experience of mental health issues and information from related service providers.

A Community Recovery Trust will also form part of the programme. Supported by Fyffes, the Community Recovery Trust will provide opportunities for individuals to apply for funding that will enable them to participate in an activity that will enhance their mental health.

Martin Connolly, chief operating officer of Dundalk FC said: “We are delighted to announce the Dundalk FC Harry Taaffe Mental Health and Wellbeing Programme.

“We believe that discussions around mental health and suicide prevention and a coordinated plan of action from government and national and local services are a priority in Ireland at this moment in time.

“As a community football club, we want to try and lead that discussion and if we can equip our players, staff, supporters and sponsors with the skills to recognise the signs of depression, or help one person through a safeTALK workshop, then this programme will have achieved its aims.

The late Harry Taaffe. Photo by Ciaran Culligan

“We would like to thank one of our supporters, Derek Pepper, for kindly sharing his expertise and knowledge to lead this programme and we would also like to thank our good friends at Fyffes who have once again demonstrated their support for the club and the community by supporting us with this venture.

“Since his tragic passing from suicide in 2020, we have looked at various ways to honour the memory of Harry Taaffe. We hope that naming this initiative after him will be a fitting tribute to a great friend and supporter of Dundalk FC.

“The programme gets underway in September and we would welcome any supporter or company within our community who wishes to partake in one of our safeTALK workshops over the coming months.”

Speaking on behalf of the Taaffe family, Harry’s son Shane Taaffe, who is also involved with Head In The Game, said: “Harry was a massive Dundalk FC supporter and volunteer and some of his happiest times were spent around Oriel Park so we are delighted to see his name associated with this terrific initiative from the club.

“If this programme helps one person with their struggles or makes one family aware of where they can get help then it will have achieved its objective and we know that Harry would be extremely proud of that.”

Gerry Cunningham, managing director of Fyffes, said: “Fyffes and Dundalk FC have worked together in various capacities over many years, such as providing fruit to the players, as main club sponsor, producing multiple videos and rolling out community initiatives.

“When we were approached to support Dundalk FC’s new mental health and wellbeing programme, we knew immediately that this was the right thing to do.

“Football and sport, in general, can play an important role in opening up discussions; it is our hope that this programme will go some way to breaking the stigma of talking about mental health.”

Emma Hunt-Duffy, head of marketing at Fyffes, added: “We are really looking forward to getting this programme underway. We know that many people are finding the post-pandemic environment tough.

“We are planning for Fyffes’ employees to partake in the safeTALK workshops so that they too can be better equipped to recognise the signs of depression or mental health challenges.

“I’m also excited to get the Community Recovery Trust underway so that we can start to make a real impact for those who need it most.”

Further details and information about the Dundalk FC Harry Taaffe Mental Health & Wellbeing Programme will be announced in the coming weeks.