Declan Devine welcomes launch of Derry City Wellbeing Team

DERRY CITY manager Declan Devine has welcomed the launch of a new 'Wellbeing' team at the football club, set up to provide a support network for players, coaches and staff.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 4:24 pm
Clinical psychologist and family therapist, Gerry Cunningham introduces himself to Derry City players at training on Tuesday.

The service will be available across all age groups and was launched to the first team squad and coaches on Tuesday afternoon by clinical psychologist and family therapist, Gerry Cunningham.

Mr Cunningham will be joined on the team by local psychotherapist Gary McLaughlin while Fr. Chris Ferguson has agreed to stand in as replacement club chaplain for Fr. Mickey Doherty who is currently ill. The club wish Fr. Mickey a swift and full recovery.

City manager, Devine described the new service as a 'really positive move' by the club and said he was fully behind the idea.

“Even in normal times I would be totally in favour of a Wellbeing team but given all the additional things that people are dealing with at the minute it is absolutely right that we have help available," said Devine.

“Counting our Academy players, our senior squad, the coaching and backroom teams and club staff there are at least 120 people around the club.

"We can look after the physical health aspect, but it is great news that we now have a team of people who are so highly regarded in their roles to help look after the mental wellbeing of everyone.”

“Gerry spoke with the squad after training on Tuesday to introduce himself and the service, and I will be encouraging everyone to make use of this opportunity should they need to do so.”


Father Chris Ferguson is an instantly recognisable figure in the city. He was born and bred in the Shantallow area of Derry and is currently based close to home at St Joseph’s chapel in Galliagh as part of the Three Patrons Parish group.

He spent 11 years as Chaplain in Altnagelvin Hospital while based at St Columb’s Church, Chapel Road in the Waterside.

Many will know Fr Chris as a mad Liverpool fan and he admits to being both of those things, however he has been a long-term season ticket holder at Derry City and is a member of the Waterside Supporters Club.

A very well-regarded individual, Fr Chris brings a wealth of experience in helping with a wide array of personal and social issues. He has a fantastic rapport with the young people of the North West and has a weekly column in the 'Derry Journal' which often deals with many of these situations.

Gary McLaughlin grew up in the Creggan area of the city and like his brothers Seanie and Paul (Oxo) has been involved in local football for 35 years.

An ACL injury badly hampered his playing plans aged just 17 but he went on to spend 12 years as a fully qualified referee in the D&D leagues.

From 2005 to 2015 Gary worked as an Outreach Counsellor and Lecturer, specialising in Mental Health- supporting individuals with suicide ideation and self-harm.

While he remains passionate about football, Gary is now a qualified CBT Psychotherapist & accredited Counsellor. He is currently working as an Addiction Counsellor with people going through treatment and rehabilitation from substance abuse and dependency.

Professor Gerry Cunningham originates from Belfast and was a practitioner in Northern Ireland from the 1970s through to retirement in December 2019.

Gerry was a clinical psychologist and family therapist and spent many years in the juvenile justice system before moving into the NHS to head up psychology services in the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

Gerry’s main clinical specialism involves working with children, adolescents and their families. He has extensive experience of running and teaching family therapy courses in the Health Trust and both universities in Northern Ireland.

In 2010 he was awarded a Visiting Professorship at Ulster University and continues to hold that position. Gerry took early retirement from the NHS in 2011 and set up his own company, spending the next nine years delivering psychological therapies to the prison population in Northern Ireland.

He also undertook contract work for the Western Trust (mainly with adult survivors of childhood trauma), as well as seeing private clients, providing supervision and heading up family therapy teaching at Ulster University.