"People see rugby as a big man's game... quite macho" 2 years ago

"People see rugby as a big man's game... quite macho"

The latest video in Rugby Players Ireland's excellent Tackle Your Feelings campaign features four Ulster and Ireland stars.

The players' association has put out a few fantastic mini features involving the likes of Jack McGrath, Shane Jennings, Hannah Tyrrell, Jake Heenan and Cathal Sheridan in recent months so it is good to see the cameras heading north.

Andrew Trimble is heavily involved in RPI and the concept - in partnership with Zurich - of getting himself and a few of his teammates [Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave and Stuart McCloskey] around a table to talk about mental health awareness was rapidly and readily accepted. SportsJOE caught up with Gilroy to discuss the campaign and how he copes with the expectations and demands of pro rugby.

"It's okay to feel stress and pressure in work," says Gilroy, "so our video covers some of the day-to-day issues we're dealing with and lets people know that it's good to reach out and to talk.

"There are times when you think 'Today's not my day' but I find that, for the most part, I'm quite laid-back and can handle things like injuries or not being selected quite well. There's so many other things going on in the world that it often puts rugby in its truer perspective.

"There is often a perception about rugby... people see rugby as a big man's game and as quite macho. But we're trying to say - if you are feeling these pressures, try to talk to someone about it." 

Gilroy is only 26 but this is his eighth season in professional rugby. He is hopeful of a mid October return to action and, when he does, he will earn his 150th provincial cap - a young head on experienced shoulders.

He admits the one time he really felt down was a few seasons back after he returned from a long-term injury and found, in is first few weeks back, that he was struggling to recapture his pace, evasiveness and form. Luckily for Gilroy, he had teammates, family members and close friends to talk to.

Asked if being perceived as laid-back and relaxed can often go against players, in the eyes of some coaches and fans, Gilroy says, "It's okay to be laid-back on the pitch, as long as you're performing."

That, in itself, offers a small window into the life of a rugby player at the very top.

You can check out the full 'Tackle Your Feelings' video here: