With just over a month before 39 members of Transplant Team Ireland depart for the World Transplant Games, they gathered at ALSAA Sports Complex Dublin airport on Sunday, 7th July for a motivational talk by international para athlete Mary Fitzgerald.
Ranging in age from 16 to 81, the team of 29 men and 10 women, have all undergone organ transplants including 1 heart, 1 lung, 5 liver, 1 bone marrow and 31 kidney. The largest ever Irish Transplant Team travelling abroad, they will be among 2000 participants from over 60 countries who will take part in the World Transplant Games 2019 in Newcastle Gateshead, UK next month (17-24 August).
Nineteen-year-old Mary Fitzgerald, Irish Paralympics Team, from Kilkenny took time to demonstrate to the Transplant Team her mighty throwing prowess, which has earned her numerous international accolades, despite her young age, for Discus, Shot Putt and Javelin. Her determination and hard work have earned her a place on the Irish Para Athletics Team and she hopes to qualify for the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai in November and the Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan in 2020.
Mary, who is studying Occupational Therapy at University College Cork, said, “I would like to express my delight to meet athletes from Transplant Team Ireland. They have all faced health challenges with uncertain futures. Sport has a huge part to play in our wellbeing and it unites people. Transplant Team Ireland shares my excitement, pride and heartfelt honour to be able to represent our country. The inspirational men and women on the team demonstrate the immeasurable benefits of sport and showcase the importance of organ donation to the general public. The World Transplant Games celebrate the power of sport and the gift of life.”
The Irish Kidney Association is responsible for Ireland’s involvement in the Games and the National Projects Manager Colin White (from Balbriggan, Dublin) is the team manager. Speaking about the Games, he said, “I am excited about the diverse nature of this year’s squad who will represent Ireland at the World Transplant Games 2019. We cover a wide range of sports and have a variety of levels of experience too. Our 5 competitors over the age of 70 are a fantastic example to us all in that sport can, and should, be a life-long habit. Each competitor is an ambassador in their own right and collectively the team sends out a wonderfully uplifting message about how life can be post-transplant”.
Newly elected National Honorary Chairman of the Irish Kidney Association Colin MacKenzie (from Portmarnock, Dublin) said, “the Irish Kidney Association is delighted to show its support for the Federation of Irish Sport’s 20×20 initiative (www.20×20.ie) which is aimed at promoting the profile and involvement of women in sport. We are committed to increasing the profile of women involved in our sports programme through our website and social media channels. With our hosting of next year’s European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships in Dublin next summer whilst our primary goal is to promote the importance and success of organ donation for transplantation, we will also be sending out a rallying call to increase the number of women on our national sports team”.
Athletes will compete in their respective age categories in the following events: badminton, cycling, darts, golf, petanque, squash, swimming, table tennis, ten pin bowling, tennis, mini-marathon, and track and field.
This year the team has gratefully received support from Swim Ireland, Athletics Ireland and Irish Squash. The on-going coaching support from Swim Ireland has been particularly welcomed. Astellas Pharma Ltd. has again provided some sponsorship towards the costs of running the team.
Visit the Games website www.worldtransplantgames.org
THE FULL IRISH PANEL IS AS FOLLOWS:
ANTRIM: John McAleer, Newtownabbey (kidney) (oldest member of the team)
CAVAN: Aodhagan Cullen, Cavan (kidney)
CLARE: Marie O’Connor, Lahinch (kidney)
Michael O’Shea, Mallow (Heart)
DONEGAL: Kieran Murray, Ramelton (kidney)
GALWAY: Sinead McGowan, Renmore (living in Australia) (kidney)
KERRY: Anna Pokojska,Killarney,via Poland Did the Ring of Kerry Cycle previous day (kidney)
KILDARE: James Nolan, Kilcullen (kidney)
KILKENNY VIA LIMERICK: Emma O’Sullivan (kidney)
LIMERICK via UK: Trevor Lynch, Cappamore, (Bone Marrow)
LOUTH: Tommy Marrett, Ardee (kidney)
MAYO via UK: Julie O’Neill, Westport- Award winning businesswoman, underwent living donor transplant from brother 37 years ago (kidney);
MEATH: Tony Gavigan, Navan & native of LONGFORD father of deceased donor (kidney);
Jerome Lyness, Navan,(kidney);
Rachel Eagleton, Bettystown – youngest female on the team (33) (kidney);
Jack O’Brien, Navan, – youngest member of the team (16) (kidney);
MONAGHAN: Tomas Flannery, Tandarageebane (Lung);
WATERFORD via Dublin: Eoin Hurley (age 25, Genetics student at TCD)(kidney)
WESTMEATH: Finian Farrell, Mullingar (kidney);
Noel Marsden, Athlone (kidney)
John Connell, Mullingar, living in South Africa (kidney);
WICKLOW: Garry Campbell, Greystones (kidney);
Philip Kavanagh, Arklow (liver);
DUBLIN: Ron Grainger, Castleknock, D.15 (kidney);
Harry Ward, Team Captain, Baldoyle, D.13 (kidney);
Paul Prendergast, Santry, D.9 (kidney);
Anthony Byrne, Artane (kidney);
Peter Heffernan, Skerries (kidney);
Leonard Ryan, Tallaght (kidney);
Aoife Murray, Clonsilla, (liver);
Michael Dwyer, Cabinteely (kidney);
Deirdre Faul, Dalkey (liver);
John Moran, Glasnevin, celebrating 34th anniversary of living donor transplant from brother (kidney) .
TEAM MANAGER, Colin White from Balbriggan, Dublin
For organ donor cards Freetext DONOR to 50050 or visit website www.ikw.ie/get-a-donor-card You can also download the IKA’s digital organ donor to your smartphone. Your wishes to be an organ donor can also be included on the new format driving licence which is indicated on the back of the card by Code 115.