New football team to help men deal with baby loss

AN Enniskillen man is on one almighty mission to raise awareness and offer support to those who have been impacted by baby loss through the power of sport.

Sands United FC Enniskillen was recently set-up by Dean Merrett in the hopes of providing a support network to help men and families cope with their bereavement experiences.

“My wife Frances and I lost our wee boy Evan back in August 2012. No heartbeat could be found just eight days before my wife was due to give birth,” explained Dean.


“Starting Sands United FC Enniskillen has been in the pipeline for a while, but it was through a conversation with my wife that gave me the encouragement to just go for it and do it.”

Sands United FC is a unique way for dads and other bereaved family members to come together through a shared love of sport and find a support network where they can feel at ease talking about their grief when they’re ready.

“Developing a team here in Fermanagh has been in the pipeline for a while,” Dean revealed.

“I’ve seen other teams do it in England where it originally started years ago and it eventually came over here to Northern Ireland however there was nothing ever down here as far as Fermanagh.”

Speaking about the importance of offering a support network to men who struggle to talk about how they’re feeling after the death of a baby, Dean explained, “There’s a stigma out there that makes men think that they need to be strong for their partners when experiencing the loss of a child as your partner still needs to give birth knowing that there is no heartbeat.

“Being there for your partner as a strong support system is so important and true to an extent but there’s so much more that goes on in the background in terms of men’s mental health.

“That’s why Sands United FC is so important for men to get together, not just for the craic or a kick-about but also for men to come together and talk about their experiences with bereavement and other day-to-day things in life that may be troubling them.”


Dean went on to “praise” the work of Sands and the support the he and his wife received after the death of their baby boy Evan.

“At that time we didn’t even realise Sands existed as you never expect that you will ever need them,” he said.

“When Evan was born they gave us a wee memorial box and that’s when we actually first came into contact with Sands and learnt what the charity was all about, and from there we have done many things together over the years.

“Sands NI is more prominent now than ever before and awareness about the charity has been growing more and more over the years.

“When it happened to us we soon realised from the amount of people who approached us from the older generation with their own stories that stillbirth and neonatal death was something that was never spoken of years ago.

“My wife and I were actually told how lucky we were that we got the chance to bury our child when others didn’t. Years ago the baby was just taken away and some parents never even got the chance to see their own child.

“You would be surprised how many people have experienced this, and you don’t realise it until it happens to you nd everybody comes together to support you.”

Speaking about the formation of Sands United FC Enniskillen and its future, Dean told the Herald, “We have group of lads who are already happy to come on board and get a full team sorted.

“It’s important to get the message out there that help is available for men and that you don’t need to suffer in silence.

“It’s not just for dads, it’s for brothers, nephews, sons, uncles etc. I know that male members from my own family circle were heavily impacted by the passing of Evan so it’s important to get those involved who aren’t receiving that one-on-one support from Sands.”

If you would like to get involved, contact Dean on 07512700713 or alternatively you can make contact through visiting the Sands United FC Enniskillen Facebook page where more information is also available.

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