Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Features

The crying game: When men shed tears in public


Former Ulster rugby ace Ruan Pienaar bid a tearful farewell to the Kingspan Stadium faithful at the weekend, but how do men really feel about blubbing openly? Lee Henry talks to well-known men here to find out more.

Ballymena United manager and senior social worker David Jeffrey (52), a father of two sons, stepped down as manager of Linfield Football Club in 2014. He says:

I think that, for far too long, particularly in Northern Ireland and on the island of Ireland as a whole, it's always been very much a stiff upper lip situation; don't let anyone share or see your feelings, and that has to change. There is absolutely nothing wrong with men showing their emotions.

For me, the outpouring of emotion at the weekend, following Ruan Pienaar's final game for Ulster Rugby, said so much about the man. It was more than emotion. His tears showed how much he cared for Ulster, for the supporters, and how sad he was to be leaving. 

Sometimes, when people react to these situations without using words, it can be much more powerful. Pienaar's reaction on the day screamed commitment; it was the reaction of someone who was clearly very thankful and grateful for his experience. His tears communicated so much, and in that sense, they were a very good thing.

When I left Linfield, I obviously had time to prepare. I had been there for 30 years - 10 years as a player, 17 years as assistant manager or manager - and I had been a supporter of the club before then. It was my decision to leave, and my decision alone. I promised myself that, on the day, I would be in total control of my emotions, but everything I intended, and indeed rehearsed, went out the window when my emotions came rushing out. Some people were less than kind about my response, while others were very supportive. It wasn't emotion for emotion's sake. It's just another way of communicating that all men should be comfortable with."

Striker Andrew Mitchell (23) played his last game for Dungannon Swifts on Monday night before moving to Glenavon FC. It was a tearful farewell. He says:

It was definitely an emotional night for me because I had been at the Swifts for three years and the people at the club were great to me. I felt I needed to give an awful lot back to the club and I hope I did that. 

There were a few tears shed, and unfortunately we didn't win the game, but it was a good night for me and I was glad to go over to the fans after the game and acknowledge them for all the support they've given me over the years. My family were present during my final game for the Swifts, and that made it all the more emotional for me. 

Monday night was probably the first time I had shown that kind of emotion on the pitch. A lot of people have this opinion that footballers are hard men who don't show much emotion, but deep down we're all human. It's important not to bottle up emotions."

Actor Marty Maguire (52) who stars in Crazy at the Grand Opera House from May 23, lives in Belfast with his partner Jo Donnelly (41), and he has two sons, Dylan (24) and Brandon (20). He says:

How many men do you know who say 'I wish my dad would've hugged me. I wish he had shown more emotion?' Those men never knew where they stood. I come from west Belfast, I grew up during the very worst years of the Troubles, and there was a 'toughen up' approach from a lot of men, but I never thought that was necessarily a good or a healthy thing at all. 

I don't see anything wrong with a man crying in public. In Pienaar's case, it was obvious that here was a man who was very dedicated to his sport, and his tears were a response to that being taken away from him. I think that's perfectly acceptable. To not cry - to not be able to show your feelings - does more harm than good.

We show happiness, so why not show sadness? Okay, sometimes it's not appropriate. Sometimes, in certain situations, it is better to hide those emotions, for your children's sake, or in a work environment where, if you do show emotions, you may get picked on. The school bully will always pick on the weakest. But in general, showing that you care is a good thing.

I have no problems showing my emotions. There are times when I'm playing a character and I, as an actor, may find the drama emotional but the character doesn't. It can be difficult to separate the two, to refrain from going with your natural instincts. For example, I had to portray the patriarch of a family, a man named John Rainey, in Mixed Marriage, which was written in the early 19th century, and he was a very staunch Orangeman. A good man, a hard-working man, but he came from a different world. Showing emotion was not one of his traits. It was fulfilling to play that part and make it believable, but that's not me."

Former Ulster and Dungannon rugby star Ryan Constable (45), who is MD at sports management company Esportif, lives in Belfast with wife, Kim (38), a bikini body builder, and their four children Corey (11), Kai, (10), Maya (7) and Jack (5). He says:

It should be acceptable for men to cry, but it can be difficult to overcome the way we, as men, are programmed. It is built into us not to be emotional in public but to bottle up our feelings. The danger is that by restricting negative emotions, such as sadness, impacts on your ability to be able to enjoy others like happiness. Rugby in particular is a macho sport which unfortunately has been affected by suicide. In the past year the Ireland and Leinster loosehead prop, Jack McGrath made a video talking about how he lost his brother to suicide in 2010. And the Irish Rugby Union Players' Association launched a Tackle Your Feelings campaign to encourage men to open up about these issues.

So there is a move in the game to create awareness among players to talk about what is going on in your head. It's about enabling guys to acknowledge their emotions and express them openly.

I grew up in an era where it was not okay to express my feelings, it wasn't acceptable. As a parent to four young children we try not to stereotype male or female and, while not overly indulging our kids, allow them to express themselves in a controlled way.

Worrying about my children makes me cry, watching them with the challenges they face everyday and if they are struggling with something. I wish I could do some things for them but, of course, that's not the right thing to do.

I thought it was great the way Ruan Pienaar let the emotion of the occasion show in public, as it obviously meant so much to him and he wasn't afraid to let his feelings out."

Cool FM presenter Pete Snodden (36) is married to Julia (36) and has two daughters, Ivana (6) and Elayna (2). He says:

I see absolutely no shame in it whatsoever. Certainly, when you were at school, had you shown emotion or cried in whatever circumstance, you would have had the hand taken right out of you, but nowadays I think it's totally acceptable for a man to show emotion in circumstances that obviously mean a significant amount to them. 

I've known plenty of blokes to cry at weddings or at times of celebration. I also think it's quite healthy, particularly at a time when mental health and awareness of mental health issues is very much a concern for lots of people. Masking emotion is not a good thing.

I'm an emotional person at times. I certainly shed a tear at my father's funeral and when my daughters were born. Don't get me wrong, I'm not someone who cries all the time, but there are occasions, moments in everyone's life, when it's impossible not to become emotional. Saying that, I held it together on my wedding day. It was great fun."

Former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey (30), father to Carter (6), shed a tear after winning the Irish Cup with Glenavon in 2016. He says:

For me, it was really an overwhelming feeling to go back to Windsor Park, the new national stadium, playing against the team that I had been released from the season before, and winning the Irish Cup with my new club Glenavon. I had previously won the County Antrim Shield at Linfield under David Jeffrey, but it was my first major trophy back playing in the Irish League, and I guess the emotions got the better of me.

It's like any sports person, when you really love the game that you're involved in and you win the trophies that you're playing for, the tears can well up. It was a very special day for me personally, for my family and for my teammates. I was maybe the most teary on the day but all of the players were touched by it, particularly some of the lads who were coming to the end of their careers. It's a momentous occasion, to win a trophy at any level of sport, it's really special.

We've seen so much this week in terms of speaking out about mental health issues, with the whole situation surrounding Everton player Aaron Lennon (who was detained under the Mental Health Act last week). We all hope he makes a full recovery, obviously. I think it's a good thing that men, in particular, can show emotion in public. If shedding a tear helps someone to enjoy or to grieve something, surely that's only a good thing."

Author and veteran peace campaigner Tony McCaulay (53) is married to Lesley (53) and has two daughters, Beth (23) and Hope (21). His next book, Little House on the Peace Line, is published June 8. He says:

The last time I cried in public was a few weeks ago, when I went to see the movie Lion at the cinema, directed by Garth Davis and starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. It's a brilliant film and a very moving true story, based on the book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, about a young boy who gets separated from his family in India before being adopted by an Australian couple.

Crying in a cinema, of course, is cheating because no one can see you. I usually manage a furtive tear wipe when nobody's watching. At the end of this particular movie, however, I sat through the closing credits so that I could compose myself. I was embarrassed that my blubbing would be exposed when I got up to leave. When I finally turned around, however, I noticed that very few people had left their seats and that the cinema was full of secret snifflers, men included.

It's okay to cry in public, in the dark or otherwise. I think as men we need to catch ourselves on and be comfortable talking about and expressing our feelings in public. I believe crying in public is a sign of strength and it's good for our mental health."

Broadcaster Ralph McLean (46) is married to fellow broadcaster Kerry (42) and has three children, Tara (11), Dan (9) and Eve (15 months). He says:

If you had asked me 10 years ago about men crying in public, you would have got the standard blokish shrug of manly shoulders, swift slap to the chops and 'catch yourself on' response. Since I've had children, though, I can't stop bloody crying. Crying at the sheer financial devastation of it all, of course, but also at the huge emotional punch that fatherhood has brought.

From the moment the kids arrived, I've developed tear ducts with no off switch. I weep in the car at soppy songs, bawl at charity adverts and don't get me started on looking at old photo albums. I am, in short, a sodden mess of tears 90% of the time.

Never in public, mind. I've got to maintain some sort of public decency. I mean, catch yourself on."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph