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Neil Lennon returns to help pal's mental health charity for young players

By Steven Beacom

Neil Lennon returned to his home town of Lurgan last night to promote mental health awareness.

It is a subject close to the heart of the Hibs manager, who has been open about his own struggles with depression in the past.

Along with former Northern Ireland team-mates David Healy and Roy Carroll, Lennon was invited to the Ashburn hotel to take part in an event which was organised by another old international pal, Pat McGibbon, in aid of the charity Train To Be Smart (TTBS).

The charity was founded by McGibbon in 2013 to promote mental health awareness through sport.

It has helped and educated many children in the mid Ulster area and is a tribute to the former Manchester United and Wigan defender's brother Phillip, who sadly took his own life when Pat was a teenager.

When asked by McGibbon, ex-Celtic boss Lennon immediately agreed to take part in the fundraising event, in which he talked about his eventful and successful career.

Lennon revealed his pride in McGibbon's initiative and why he felt it so important to come back to Lurgan for the evening.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Lennon (below) said: "It's my own community and I think it is a great initiative. I was here in March and Pat took me to the centre where they are doing all the work with the kids and it was fantastic to see.

"It is a big undertaking and it needs as much support as it can get. It is a boost for people in this area.

"I'm very proud of what Pat is doing. He had a very good playing career and now he is doing something important through football for the community and for those who need it due to mental health issues.

"I have done a few things for charities, but with my own background I felt it important to support this one. It is a really special one for me because it is closer to home.

"It means a lot to be back home and if we can make people feel better about themselves, I'm all for that.

Lennon added: "Even in Scotland now there is an initiative through the clubs where people are being trained to look out for mental health issues.

"People are more aware of it now than they were 20 or 30 years ago. That doesn't mean to say that it wasn't there. It was probably always there, it's just people didn't know what the symptoms were or how to diagnose it.

"Now it is far more common and it is there in all walks of life. And it is important in sport that we can have platforms and support mechanisms to help young players, not just in football, but athletics, boxing and others.

"We've seen depression with some sporting greats and it is vital that we talk about it."

Lennon, Healy and Carroll followed in the famous footsteps of former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson and ex-Old Trafford captain Roy Keane, who have been guests at McGibbon's fundraising and awareness raising events. Linfield manager Healy added: "It's fantastic what Pat is doing with his charity for young people. Pat is raising awareness about an extremely important issue."

Linfield goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who has admitted to having had some dark days throughout his career, said: "I've known Pat a long time, since we were both at Wigan and his Train To Be Smart charity is doing wonderful work for young people."

McGibbon stated: "Neil played in the same gaelic team as my brother Phillip so I always knew him and played with him in the international side and got on well with him.

"I'd read his book in which he talked about his own mental health issues, so I picked up the phone and asked him if he'd come over and he agreed straight away.

"It was great to have David Healy and Roy Carroll at the event too. I've been friendly with David from when he was a youngster at Manchester United and Roy and myself have been close since we were team-mates at Wigan.

"Previously we have had Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson and I really appreciate these fantastic people supporting what we are doing."

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