PRESS RELEASE 17TH August, 2014
MESSAGES OF SUPPORT ROLL IN AS ‘INSPIRATIONAL’ TRANSPLANT & DIALYSIS ATHLETES DEPART FOR EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS IN KRAKOW
Messages of support have been pouring in from sporting personalities, diplomatic and political quarters as well as from members of the general public for the 34 inspirational men and women of Transplant Team Ireland who flew out to Krakow, Poland over the weekend to take part in the 8thEuropean Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships.
The team has received an abundance of goodwill messages from leading sporting personalities including European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley, multiple Irish champion jockey Ruby Walsh, and Dublin and Tyrone Senior Football Team Managers Jim Gavin and Mickey Harte. Also offering words of encouragement to the team were Senator David Norris who recently underwent a liver transplant as well as the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.
The team, which ranges in age from 16 to 76, have all faced huge personal health battles with uncertain outcomes and are now embracing life through sport as well as honouring their donors. Competing amongst over 500 participants from 24 European countries, the Irish team of 25 men and 9 women will proudly represent their country at the European Championships and showcase the importance of organ donation and transplantation. The Irish team comprises 28 transplant recipients (including five Liver, twenty one Kidney, one combined Kidney/Pancreas and one Bone Marrow) as well as five people who are undergoing dialysis treatment.
Representing the Polish Embassy in Ireland, Charge d’Affaires Mr. Piotr Rakowski attended a departure event at Dublin airport at the weekend to offer words of encouragement to the team including the six athletes who flew out from Shannon airport, to his homeland. He said, “we are delighted that such a strong Irish representation is taking part in this year’s championships which will be held in Krakow (Poland). I wish you every success in all of your events – I have no doubt that you’ll bring home many victories as well as precious memories of your achievements. I also hope that you’ll get a chance to enjoy the charms of the beautiful city of Krakow and its surroundings – it is a stunning part of our country and truly worth exploring. Come on Ireland!”
Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, T.D., sent a letter to the team saying “Your participation at the Championships is truly an inspiration to those who are currently undergoing kidney dialysis or who are waiting in hope for other organs. Those of you who are organ transplant recipients clearly illustrate the level of health and vitality that can be achieved after transplantation. Indeed your age spread from teenager to senior citizen illustrates a focus on physical activity that I would like to see replicated across the population. For those of you on dialysis, I applaud your positive approach and I am sure that this will help you in dealing with health issues also. In my new role as Minister for Health, I will make every effort to increase the number of people donating organs and the number of success transplantations. I hope too that the increase in transplantations will lead to Transplant Team Ireland continuing to grow from the already impressive 34 men and women.”
Senator David Norris who earlier this year received a liver transplant said “ for those of you who have been through the transplant process and those still waiting I am sure you will all agree that we owe a great debt to those who volunteered to donate their organs so that we might live. For some the decision was made during a time of great grief and of others great hope for success of their donors, particularly if it was a family member. It is with great pride that I wish you all the very best for your undoubted success. You all have to be both congratulated and praised for your achievements to date. I have no doubt that many of you will return home in great glory festooned in medals!
European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley in a message to Transplant Team Ireland said “you are all great heroes in your own way. I hope we (the Ryder Cup Team) have as much spirit in the Ryder Cup as you have.”
Tyrone Football manager Mickey Harte said “be sure to tell your team members that their determination, courage and commitment are an inspiration to me as I endeavour to encourage our players to be the best they can be”.
Multiple Irish Champion Jockey Ruby Walsh wished the team the best of luck and said that they are “an inspiration to all those waiting on a life saving transplant and show what can be done when recipients are given a second chance of life through transplantation.”
Last month Dublin Senior Football Manager Jim Gavin gave a motivational talk to Transplant Team Ireland. In a previous role with the Air Corps, he flew many missions involving the retrieval of organs and the movement of patients for transplant operations. He said to the team, “your resilience and determination to embrace life through sport is commendable and surely gives comfort to donor families as well as promoting to the public the indisputable importance and success of organ donation. Your participation in sport as a team shows solidarity in your conviction that organ donation works and that sport benefits mind and body and unites people.”
Transplant Team Ireland Manager, Colin White said, “This year sees our largest ever travelling team for a European Championship and ten newcomers. I have great admiration for the motivation shown by all our team members in preparation for our trip to Poland. Not only have they been training hard for their respective competitions, they also pay the majority of the costs involved. We hope our involvement in the Championships helps raise awareness amongst the general public of how organ donation can transform lives and that it encourages all those people who support organ donation to let their wishes be known to their family. We are delighted to welcome two former international sports stars onto our team including former Garryowen, Munster and Ireland rugby player Richard Costello who received a kidney transplant from his donor wife Anna in 2012 as well as Mary Sheehan who in the ‘80s represented Ireland for several years in table tennis. Also taking part for the first time this year in Transplant Sport is former No.1 Darts player in Ireland Sean Marshall who received a bone marrow transplant from his donor brother Paudie.”
The 8th European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships will be held in Krakow, Poland from 16th – 23rd August. Every athlete at the Games will either have already received a kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas or bone marrow transplant or are on dialysis.
Athletes will compete in badminton, tennis, cycling, darts, golf, petanque, swimming, table tennis, ten pin bowling, tennis, volleyball, mini-marathon, track and field and for the first time this year a biathlon event.
At the previous European Games which were held in Zagreb , Croatia in 2012, with a smaller team of 26, Ireland was placed in third position on the medals table after France and Slovenia out of 28 participating countries after securing an impressive medals haul of 14 Gold, 15 Silver and 21 Bronze.
The Irish Kidney Association is responsible for the coordination and organisation of Transplant Team Ireland’s participation in the European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships.
The full Irish panel is as follows:-
Antrim: John McAleer, Newtownabbey (oldest member of the team)
Cork: Mike Keohane, Clonakilty; Charlie Ryan, Cobh;
Clare: Eoghan O’Neill, Newmarket-on-Fergus; Mary Sheehan, Parteen;
Marie O’Connor, Lahinch
Donegal: Hugo Boyce, Clonmany; Kieran Murray, Ramelton
Galway: Linda Waters, Athenry; Zimele Brown, Athenry (native of New Orleans)
Kerry: Sean Marshall, Tralee
Kildare: James Nolan, The Curragh.
Laois: Robbie Lyons the Swan, via Athy.
Longford: James Hannon, Edgeworthstown
Offaly: Edward McAuliffe, Portarlington
Sligo: Bridie Nicholson, Sligo town.
Tipperary: Vincent Bradshaw, Cahir; Sheila Gregan, Nenagh; Orla Hogan, Nenagh
Andrew Duncan, Clonmel (youngest member of the team)
Westmeath: John Connell, Cape Town, South Africa, formerly from Mullingar
Wicklow: Philip Kavanagh, Arklow
Dublin: Ron Grainger, Castleknock, D.15; Harry Ward, Team Captain, Baldoyle, D.13; Paul Prendergast, Santry, D.9; Chikoyo White, Balbriggan; Peter Heffernan, Skerries;
James Reynolds, Tallaght, D.24; Michael Dwyer, Cabinteely; Deirdre Faul, Dalkey.
Limerick: Richard Costello, Limerick city; John Loftus, Clarina;
Thomas Doherty, Bruff; Madeleine Donaghy, Knockalong.
Team Doctor Yvonne Ryan from Ballyneety, Limerick
Team Manager, Colin White from Balbriggan, Dublin
For an organ donor card Freetext the word DONOR to 50050 or visit website www.ika.ie It is also possible to download an organ donor card on smartphones by searching for ‘Donor ECard’ at the iphone store or android market place. Your wishes to be an organ donor can also be included on the new format driving licence which is represented by Code 115.