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Connacht Supporter’s Open Letter To Pat Lam

5th May 2017 By Munster Rugby Supporters Club

Connacht Supporter’s Open Letter To Pat Lam

In the build up to tomorrow’s game in Thomond Park we spotted a truly moving article on the Connacht Clan website which we would like to share with our members and supporters.

In the build up to tomorrow’s game in Thomond Park we spotted a truly moving article on the Connacht Clan website which we would like to share with our members and supporters.

The Open Letter which can be seen below or on the Connacht Clan website here tells the story of a Connacht supporter and his struggle with his mental health and the role of Pat Lam and Connacht Rugby in his turn for the better.

As Munster Rugby features in his experience and tomorrow's game in Thomond Park is Pat Lam's final game of the regular season in charge of Connacht Rugby, we contacted this gentleman and are delighted that he has accepted both our invitation to the game and the offer of two spaces in our MRSC Guard of Honour allowing him to be pitchside as the teams run out on the field. We recognise many of the qualities listed below in our own club of Munster Rugby and the MRSC and this both reminds us and makes us extremely proud of the effect that rugby and the rugby community can have. We would encourage you all to read the below and if you are attending the game, to give an extra loud cheer for our Guard of Honour.

__________________________________________________________

Dear Pat,

Hi Pat, I’m a loyal Connacht fan just wanting to let you know the impact you have had on me personally and to say thanks for it.

When I stood in Murrayfield reflecting on my day I couldn’t help but reflect on the impact that rugby and Connacht Rugby has had on my life, both emotionally and even more so mentally. Like Connacht I have endured some tough times, and at times it became too much for me. I have suffered with depression for many years now, but it was reaching a head in the Spring of 2016. I had suffered a few family bereavements over the previous years that had made me question my faith and my beliefs, and had left me very low. However, I had always succeeded personally in my education and that was always a source of pride and happiness for me. In the 2015-16 academic year I had begun my final year in college. As a result of an accumulation of family issues as well as pressure with my studies things were beginning to get the better of me.

In my first semester I failed two of my exams and was really questioning what I wanted to do with myself. Over the coming weeks and months I became totally dejected and spent a number of weeks in February to March totally isolated from my friends and family. I never felt safe discussing how I felt with anyone. I began sleeping during the day and getting up and staying awake during the night so I wouldn’t have to be in contact with anyone. I would go down to the shop at six in the morning to get food and then retreat into my room in college for the remainder of the day, I stopped going home at the weekends, and talking to my family.

I had long been questioning whether I wanted to continue at all; at this point I had totally dropped away from my studies and spent the day just sitting in bed. I had become resigned to my fate and was in contemplation on ending my life. The only glimmer of hope and escape from my reality was when I could switch off and get behind something I believed in, Connacht Rugby. While I thought about suicide I had decided I would wait until I had finished college and Connacht’s season had concluded.

Thankfully a turning point came. For me, as silly as it may sound, it was when Connacht beat Munster, a game I was due to go to with a friend from college, a Munster fan, but I had stopped replying to his messages in order to remain alone. There were many reasons this became a turning point; the first was in the manner the team performed and how they conducted themselves, they had fallen behind but never relented, never threw in the towel, never surrendered. The second was actually something that was said after the game by you. In the video posted by Connacht after the game you discussed the Darkness Into Light Run you had led in Galway that morning. You spoke of how there is always hope. This was something that I had forgotten as I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes. But here in front of me was the proof, Connacht Rugby.

Following the game I decided to go home, the first time in weeks I had faced my family (I usually returned home every weekend and talked on the phone to my mother every few days). I had told them that I had lots of college work and only texted them a couple of times during this time. I was relieved and delighted to be back, back helping my father on the farm, a job I had usually hated. It was from here that things became easier for me. I then got back in contact with my friends. I returned to college after a week or so at home so I could sort out deferring my college year. I talked to my friends to try to explain what was going on.

From here things improved greatly. I sat among my friends watching the Connacht v Glasgow game with multiple screens going so they could all follow their own teams that day. When we managed our victory and guaranteed a home play-off I was ecstatic. Having already purchased my ticket for Edinburgh following the Munster game, I now set my eyes on Galway. I travelled down with a number of my mates from college, none actually Connacht fans but Munster and Leinster fans, they had no tickets but wanted to share in the moment with me in Galway that day.

On that day I walked into the Sportgrounds, I was nervous but at the same time confident, a reflection on how I felt about my future also. When we managed to secure the win I felt sure it was now to be. I now needed to secure my travel to Edinburgh as a number of friends were supposed to travel and details needed to be finalised. My journey to Murrayfield was long, but filled with a hope I had scarcely believed was possible just a few months prior. I journeyed from my home to Dublin, in order to get the ferry to Wales (not a direct route I know but it got me there), I travelled by train from Holyhead via Manchester and York, taking 23 hours total. I was totally wrecked but yet wide eyed in expectation.

As I met up with friends outside Murrayfield, who had made other travel arrangements as part of a pre-planned trip to Edinburgh, I wasn’t hopeful. This is because I didn’t just hope we would win I was sure of it. As we watched the Connacht team come off the bus and walk into the stadium my emotions were at maximum, and the hairs on my neck were standing to salute Mul and his band of often disregarded warriors. On that day we did as I expected, brought more passion and humility to an occasion that was scarcely believable years earlier. In fact at the 2013 final I watched among Ulster fans in the RDS saying that I had to come because this was maybe as close as I would get to a PRO12 victory, even as a proud Connacht man I didn’t think what was to unfold was possible despite the heroics of that season.

As I watched the players put in a performance that totally eclipsed anything even an expectant fan could have dreamed of, it was now in no doubt we had done it. As I witnessed John hoist that trophy aloft I shed a tear, in reflection of what was the most complete moment of happiness I have ever been so lucky to endure.

The reason why Connacht Rugby has become so much more than just my local team is due to the circumstances that surround us a province. Often forgotten and disregarded, but never faltering in an unwavering belief. A team built on more than just rugby talent, built on solid foundations of great morals. Men like John Muldoon, and guys like Mick Swift and Eric Elwood before him reflect this ethos, respect, humility, empathy, passion, loyalty, community, heart. These are morals you strengthened in this team, made more pertinent to the task at hand. These are traits I hope to emulate. Having been without hope, feeling forgotten much like Connacht circa 2001. I now have a greater sense of self-belief, and all the other things you taught me through Connacht Rugby. I now aim to rise from the ashes and achieve all that I am capable of. As a result of your tenure in charge of something so dear to me I believe that is more possible.

On this day I must also thank Ronan Loughney, Danny Qualter, Danie Poolman, Shane O’Leary, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Lewis Stevenson, Ivan Soroka, Rory Moloney, John Cooney, Rory Parata and Josh Rowland for pulling on that jersey and doing it service. I wish them every success in the future. In particular Locks, a man that encapsulates everything that is so good about Connacht, representing his home province with distinction on every occasion, culminating with an excellent role anchoring our scrum in our finest hour, you will be sorely missed but never once forgotten and always appreciated.

I can never express how much you have done for me, even though the only contact I have ever had with you was to pat your back on my way to the bathroom before the Glasgow play-off game and say good luck. I am uncertain of whether this message will reach you, but I had to try to say thank you for what you have done for me. I will be in the Sportgrounds tonight cheering on my team with every fibre of my being, but a certain part of me will be very solemn, in the knowledge that you are gracing the hallowed turf of the Sportgrounds for quite possibly the final time.

I truly wish you every success in the future, I hope that you can bring the same feelings to many Bristol fans, and make the same impact as you have made on me to them, and as you have surely made on countless other in Connacht like me. You, as I am sure you are aware are more than just a mere mortal to the people of Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo and Galway. Truly, I am humbled to have had you coach my team.

Slán leat, agus go raibh míle maith agat!

__________________________________________________________________________

Pieta House's annual Darkness into Light walk takes place in just a few hours, the morning of Munster's game against Connacht tomorrow in Thomond Park. Check out your local venue here and if you can, get out and join in the fight for a suicide free world.

If not, you can donate via the Connacht Clan team here

If you have been affected by issues in this article, you can free-phone the Samaritans on 116 123. Pieta House can be contacted on 1800 247 247. For more information on Pieta House and its services click here.

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