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New group aims to help footballers through hard times

A new group dedicated to assisting former Irish footballers who have fallen on tough times was launched at FAI headquarters on the Sport Ireland Campus.

The Irish Professional Footballers Benevolent Association [IPFBA] was founded back in October as a response to a range of issues encountered by ex-players.

Its members say the urgency to address this issue was highlighted by the health problems suffered by former Republic of Ireland defender James 'Jacko' McDonagh who enjoyed a long and successful career with Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers, Nimes in France and Derry City.

McDonagh, 61, suffered a stroke in May 2022. He requires long-term care, with the wider Irish football community rallying around the much-loved and respected Dubliner to help his cause.

His plight ultimately led to the formation of the IPFBA which aims to help players deal with medical and financial challenges.

The committee is made up of several leading Irish footballing figures including Conan Byrne, Pat Byrne, Terry Eviston, Pat Fenlon, Robbie Gaffney, Harry Kenny, Carmel McNulty, Kieron Maher, Áine O'Gorman, Alan O’Neill and Anto Whelan.

Former League of Ireland player Harry McCue is chairperson, wth ex-Ireland women's international Linda Gorman vice-chair. Dundalk FC great Martin Lawlor will act as secretary.

"When we learned of the terrible news about Jacko McDonagh’s illness, a group of his former team mates and players from other clubs quickly mobilised to support him and his family," said McCue, whose father Harry senior was a founding member of the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland [PFAI] in 1961.

"The heartfelt response from hundreds of people within football and from the wider public allowed the establishment of a financial fund to help