By Sarah May
Today marked the first day of the 9th European Transplant & Dialysis Games held in Vantaa, Finland. The Championships are a multi-sport event running from the 10th until 17th July. Transplant Team Ireland got off to a thrilling start today securing a staggering seven medals, including 2 Gold, 2 Silver and 3 bronze, in the Darts events and putting in a good performance in the mini-marathon.
Newcomer to the team, Tralee native and kidney transplant recipient Stephen Byrne competed in the mini-marathon today. Stephen said “I really enjoyed my first event I managed to knock 33 seconds off my personal best so even though I didn’t win a medal I’m delighted.”
Donegal native Kieran Murray and Tipperary’s Orla Hogan also competed in the 5km event. Battling a chest infection Kieran was unable to perform to his usual impressive speed and he said, “It was very tough I am slightly disappointed with my time but I certainly did my best. I am really looking forward to my other events towards the end of the week. I am delighted to be here and to be able to promote organ donor awareness”.
In the Darts event veteran to the Games, Charlie Ryan, a liver transplant recipient from Cobh bagged a Gold. He went head to head with Dublin native and kidney transplant recipient Mick Dwyer in the final. It was a close match but in the end Charlie took the Gold while Mick took the Silver. Charlie was delighted to beat a Dublin man; “It was fantastic that Cork beat Dublin, this is my fifth Gold medal in the Darts in a row at European Games over the years.
Edward Crowe, from Carrick on Suir, Tipperary, who underwent the first spousal living donor kidney transplant operation in Ireland from his wife Deirdre in 2008, also secured a Bronze medal today in a Darts event. Edward thoroughly enjoyed the competition, “I enjoyed it immensely. I am delighted to be at the Games again meeting old friends. The friends I’ve made during my time at the games are friends for life”.
Eddie McAuliffe a kidney transplant recipient from Kill and now living in Portarlington, also showed off his skill in Darts today securing a Gold in his age category, “I wasn’t expecting to do so well, so I’m delighted. There were a few very close matches but it’s great to come out with the gold”.
Zimele Brown, from Galway (a native of New Orleans) and Richard McEvoy from Kilkenny were victorious in the Dialysis category. Zimele took home the Silver while Richard took the Bronze. Richard is a newcomer to the Games and is enjoying his experience thus far. He said “I feel ecstatic, it’s fantastic to win a medal in my first event, on the first event at my first ever Championships. A great start to what will hopefully be a great week”.
Kidney/pancreas recipient Bridie Nicholson from Sligo took the Bronze in her age category in Darts. Bridie is a long-standing member of Transplant Team Ireland having taken part in several European and World Games and is looking forward to competing in Petanque tomorrow.
Mullingar native Finian Farrell, Team Captain Harry Ward from Baldoyle, Dublin (both kidney transplant recipients) and Arklow native Philip Kavanagh, a liver transplant recipient, also played very well in their respective Darts events and narrowly missed out on securing medals.
Transplant Team Ireland which comprises of 22 men and 6 women includes 22 transplant recipients (4 liver, 17 kidney and 1 combined kidney/pancreas) and six athletes that are receiving dialysis treatment.
The Irish Kidney Association is responsible for the co-ordination and organisation of Transplant Team Ireland’s participation in the European Transplant & Dialysis Championships.
The Team will return home to Dublin airport next Sunday. For more information on the 9th European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships and the Irish athletes visit the team blog www.transplantteamireland.wordpress.com or visit the Games website www.vantaa2016.fi/en
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