Since joining The Derry Journal in 2006 I have written about male cancer many times.
It never ceases to shock me that some men in this so-called modern world still feel very uncomfortable talking about male cancer.
Us men folk seem to poke fun at the fact women never stop talking but when it comes to something as vitally important as discussing cancer they run rings round us.
Getting men to open up about testicular and prostate cancer is a war of attrition at times but when well known personalities decide to highlight such issues then it becomes a whole different ball (no pun intended) game.
Twelve players - one from each of the clubs playing in the Airtricity League Premier Division - volunteered to take part in a naked photo-shoot for a calendar.
The money made on the back of the calendar sales will be used to help Drogheda United striker, Gary O’Neill, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer this year. The money will also be used to raise awareness of the illness.
Derry City midfielder Barry Molloy is a favourite amongst many of the Derry fans. Molloy’s professionalism both on and off the pitch is exemplary and when the PFAI union contacted Derry City F.C. to see if any of their players would be interested in taking part in the naked calendar, Molloy jumped at the chance.
It’s not Baz’s first time to raise money for male cancer. Last year he took part in the annual ‘Movember’ which takes places in November and participants are encouraged to grow a moustache in return for sponsorship money.
Molloy and the other 11 players taking part in the calendar are seen as role models in their respective towns and cities.
The players’ involvement with the campaign means that the prospect of talking about male cancer becomes a little more accessible for men of all ages.
If people like Barry Molloy raise awareness then perhaps it will help some men to feel a little more at ease when discussing their condition.
Perhaps one of the best lessons to be learned from the campaign and in particular, the case of Gary O’Neill, is that testicular cancer is an illness that can affect young, fit and healthy men.
It’s vitally important that the campaign is not some flash in the pan photo-call; instead it should also set out to inform men of all ages what to look out for and how to check themselves for symptoms.
The Gary O’Neill campaign is also refreshing in the sense that it puts football in perspective.
It’s horrible that the Drogheda United player is having to endure such a horrible and invasive illness but I am sure he would have no problem trading in all his success as a footballer for a clean bill of health.
Poor form, cup elimination and losses at home pale into insignificance when it comes up against something as critical and as serious as testicular cancer.
I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like for Gary O’Neill but I hope as he recovers from his operation and treatment he can take some comfort from the fact that players from all over the country are stripping off, lending their support and raising awareness of a very destructive and horrible disease.
Those about to strip, I salute you.