Jumpers for Goalposts – Charity Football Match

Louise Whelan

Ringsend has a very rich heritage when it comes to football and it is steeped in football tradition. Legends are born in Ringsend, if you didn’t already know. Pride of Ringsend SC are a Shamrock Rovers Supporters’ Club and back in December they decided to run their own ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ charity football match in Ringsend Park, with all proceeds from donations and a raffle going to Mental Health Ireland. This game was to try to get as many people together in a safe environment and motivate those who may have been struggling throughout the pandemic to have a kickabout and a chat.
The J4G is a new volunteer run movement that encourages men of different ages, races, backgrounds and abilities to come together for an old fashioned game of football using ‘jumpers for goalposts’. The idea is the brainchild of Ballybrack mental health activist Keith Kelly.
What was originally a one-off game, has since evolved into a campaign that has reached all corners of the island, raising awareness for mental health. It follows the success of a poem and video that Keith created for World Mental Health week back in 2018. In the poem, Keith talks about his fond memories of a life lived outdoors away from mobile phones and computer games, when large groups would throw down their jumpers to make goalposts and spend the day playing football together. The video attracted a huge response which got Keith thinking about the possibility of re-creating that experience in the form of a casual Sunday morning game of football in Ballybrack. What followed was the beginning of something special.
Approximately 65 men from their 30s through to their 70s responded, all keen to come together, have a laugh and enjoy a bit of fresh air and community spirit without taking themselves too seriously. Many of them hadn’t seen each other in years. Some had been through hardships including depression, bereavement, illness, addiction, separation and more, but they all had the same goal, to get out and about and enjoy a bit of craic through social connection. Players could choose to play for just a few minutes or for an entire match. The main thing was to keep it lighthearted, inclusive, non-competitive and enjoyable for all. So it’s no surprise that Ringsend with its solid community and love of football wanted to join in and do their own charity match on December 11th. Great numbers turned up on the day from the eager young kids to the older men. Local footballers from the local teams as well as players from far afield.
There was a great buzz in the air with the camaraderie that you find on a football pitch, the back and forth slagging and banter, the oohs and ahhs when it’s almost a goal, the roars and cheers when it is a goal, the patting of the back for a well-done mate, the hand stretched out ready to help up a fallen player and the team effort on both sides coming together for the love of the game and encouraging the young lads to show their skills and even score their own goals against a very agile goalkeeper! I’m sure there’s still a debate going on though over who got the last goal.
But everyone was welcome and made to feel included, no matter what level they were at. Even local Sinn Fein TD Chris Andrews got in for a quick kickabout. The team spirit was amazing, it was like having an extra family, and the support was second to none. Playing football also improves general fitness. When you’re out on the pitch you forget that you’re exercising, you forget any troubles you might have. You just become so focused on having fun with your mates and relishing in sharing a common
interest that boosts confidence in all ages, something we need more of.
Speaking to Keith afterwards, he said “It doesn’t matter what ability you have, people who have been playing here with their grandfathers, their fathers and the people that played here today will go off somewhere and share the story of what happened here today with their grandparents.” He also mentioned about the positive impact that football has on mental health, saying he struggled himself the past month but for him, the journey here, and the excitement is just brilliant for creating so much positivity and building mental wellbeing. He also praised Ciaran Stafford and all the organisers calling them ‘champions’ and added that he hopes the local clubs can build on this themselves and get the young people out playing football and away from the video games, that a lot of the young kids here today will go home to their mates and say, “Let’s go out for a kickabout.”
Justin Mason and Donal Dunne who are on the committee for Shamrock Rovers SC both agreed that it is such a simple, but brilliant idea. “It’s great for the community, it’s getting people involved in something and it’s something that we’re going to look into doing annually from now on as you can see what it means to people to just get out,’’ said Justin.
Donal also spoke about how tough it can be for some men saying, “Men don’t necessarily speak about their feelings but looking for help is never a weakness, if anything it is a strength and if we can raise awareness from today in other places, then it’s been a very successful day.”

Following on from the game, there was a chance to lift the Airtricity League Trophy won by Shamrock Rovers, in the Irishtown House where the raffle was held and also a draw to win a league-winning jersey from footballer Sean Gannon. Shamrock Rovers SC thanked all their sponsors, the Irishtown House, St Pats and Cambridge FC, for the facilities in Irishtown Stadium, and to everyone who played football and donated to such a worthy cause. Special mention went to Keith Kelly for his fantastic initiative and for coming up with such a simple, effective idea that works so well.