Friday, 23rd August marked the final day of competition for the 37-strong Transplant Team Ireland at an unforgettable World Transplant Games 2019. It also marked their final day in host city Newcastle before they got ready to return home to Dublin airport’s Terminal One (on Saturday 24th August 12.30pm) with their huge haul of 50 medals. The team’s final medals tally was 17 Gold, 18 Silver and 15 Bronze which earned them a very respectable 11th place position on the leader board amongst 56 countries some with larger teams and the host country GB&NI having 320 participants.
Despite a blustery start to the week, the sun shone down on the final day of competition for Transplant Team Ireland athletes at track and field events as they pushed themselves towards success bagging the last 7 medals of their final haul including 1 Gold, 3 Silver and 3 Bronze.
Regardless of individual successes in competition, the spirit of goodwill and passion for the gift of life was palpable. New friendships were forged and old friendships reignited within the team and with people from all over the world, all of them sharing a common bond and showcasing the success of organ donation.
Bone Marrow transplant recipient Trevor Lynch from Limerick, and now living in Buckinghamshire, UK, enjoyed a very successful week at his first World Games taking a bronze in the 1500m race on Thursday and then following up with a Bronze for the 800m on the final day of competition, he said “running with the Irish Transplant Team is such an honour, the team is one big family and I love it.”
John Moran, a kidney transplant recipient from Glasnevin, Dublin proved to be a powerhouse over the week securing a remarkable 5 medals including; 3 Gold and 2 Silver including one Gold and a Silver on the final day of competition for the 800m race and Silver for the 200m sprint respectively. John, age 61, this year celebrates the 34th anniversary of the living donor kidney transplant from his brother Frank. Earlier in the week his first Gold was won for the 10km cycling event followed up the following day with a Gold in the 30km Cycling race, and on the penultimate day he won a Silver in the 1500m.
Kieran Murray, from Ramelton, Donegal competed in the 800m sprint in his final event of the games and was placed fifth in his race. Kieran, who had a kidney transplant, was joined in Newcastle by his wife Olivia and three daughters Grace, Sophie and Chloe. Following the race, Kieran said, “It has been a great week. I am delighted with how my events have gone and I’ve really enjoyed my experience. I met lots of new friends and seen old friends. It’s lovely to have my wife and kids here supporting me. A big thanks to Milford AC and everyone who has help me to fundraise.”
Youngest Team Ireland member and newcomer to the World Games was 16 year old Jack O’Brien from Navan, Co Meath who bagged three medals, a Silver in Darts, a Bronze in the long jump and on the final day of events secured another Bronze in the 200m sprint and achieved a personal best with a time of 26.53 seconds. Jack said, “ I am delighted to get a personal best today in the 200m sprint. This week has been great, it’s been brilliant to be a part of Team Ireland at my first World Transplant Games and it’s certainly been great craic.”
On the final day of competition Mike Keohane from Roscarbery, Cork won a Silver medal in the 5k Race Walk event. Later in the morning the liver transplant recipient competed in the Discus event where he was placed 6th for his 25.90 distance. He also won a Gold medal on Wednesday in the Darts Triples event with teammates Charlie Ryan also from Cork and Jerome Lyness from Meath. Speaking about his 5k race, Mike said, it was a lovely race. This is my main event and the one I’ve trained the most for and look forward to the most. An Australian competitor was with me for the first two kilometres then I eased away into second place. I came second to a Hungarian. I am delighted to come home with a Silver medal in my favourite event. A big thanks to my coach Roscarbery Stream Runners AC, my wonderful wife Dee for all her support and of course my donor who gave me the opportunity to be here 12 years after my transplant.”
Having already won Gold in Golf earlier in the week Marie O’Connor from Lahinch in Clare leaped to secure a second medal, a Bronze in the long jump on the final day. She said, “It was very unexpected. I’m so grateful, this medal is for my kidney donor. A huge thank you to everyone. I’ve really enjoyed meeting everyone and the support has been fantastic. It’s great to have a second chance and to meet new and old friends.” The last event of the day was the 4X400m relay race with an Irish team of John Moran, Kieran Murray, James Nolan and Trevor Lynch. The team raced their way to fifth place.
The last medal won by the team at the Games was a Silver by newcomer Thomas Flannery, a retired Garda Superintendent and lung transplant recipient from Monaghan, who won a Silver in the Javelin . The day before, the lung transplant recipient, also won a Gold medal in the Shot Putt event watched on by family. After his Javelin event Tom said, “I pulled a hamstring in the left leg yesterday and that affected my play. Overall I was very happy with the Javelin. When I stand back and think about everything I’m delighted as I think of the health journey I have travelled over the last few years.”
Team Manager Colin White concluded the week saying, “it’s been an absolutely fantastic week, the team spirit has been overwhelming. The buzz, camaraderie, friendship, the sense that we are all in this together, every medal is a medal for the team. It’s wonderful to see people getting their just rewards, the team has put in a lot of work this year and it’s paying off. What has been really positive for the team, was competing successfully in the team events like pairs in Golf, pairs in Tennis, team event in the 5km and triples teams in Darts. Every single person brings something to the team – their mere presence at a venue, a smiling face and active encouragement all play a part in defining the team’s identity. Wandering around as Team Manager, I hear from other teams and officials about what an amazing spirit our team has. I am so proud to say I am part of the Irish team.”
Team Captain Harry Ward, a kidney transplant recipient from Baldoyle looked out for the Irish team all week offering words of encouragement, support and keeping spirits high. Harry competed in the Pétanque, Darts and Bowling events during the week. As the Games came to a close Harry said, “it’s been a great week, the team spirit has been strong and the wonderful supporters have been willing and able to do whatever was asked of them at a moment’s notice. Each and every athlete gave it their best and was ready to support the next team member that was up for competition. It was great to have all the newcomers in the team this year, and their supporters all joining us for the first time. They all slotted into the team like they had been here for years. It’s been wonderful to have my wife Mary here with me also. All the events were very well organised and all of the Team 19 volunteers and supporters were excellent. Team Manager Colin White was always attentive and accessible despite his exceptionally busy schedule wearing many hats as not only Team Manager but also member of the World Transplant Games Federation Board. It was great to see him relaxed for a few moments this afternoon while he wolfed down a burger, we are hungry work!”
Graham Wylie, Chairman of the World Transplant Games 2019 and Graham Moore, chairman of Westfield Health and the Donor Family Network were ever present across each venue around Newcastle during the week to present medals to transplant athletes and there were also appearances from Golfer Lee Westwood and former Newcastle United premier league footballer Alan Shearer.
The Irish Kidney Association will host the 2020 European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships in Dublin next summer (August 2nd-9th 2020) and its primary goal is to highlight the importance and success of organ donation for transplantation. Team Ireland were actively promoting the event to all European athletes this week and many teams spoke of their excitement to attend Dublin 2020.
Colin White said, “I am so delighted by all the interest and excitement expressed for 2020. Expectations are high so we are excited and keen to deliver. The support we have had from National Governing Bodies bodes well for the partnerships that we hope to have to help us deliver the most successful European Transplant & Dialysis Championships ever.”
Heart transplant recipient Mick O’Shea, from Mallow, Cork, a newcomer to the team and also a very welcome addition, said, “It’s amazing to see where I am today versus where I was two years ago prior to transplant and that’s all down to my donor, donor family and all the support I received from friends and family.”
Some stand out medal winners on the Irish team included Corkmen Charlie Ryan, a retired skipper from Cobh, won three Gold medals at the Games in Darts Triples and Darts singles as well as Petanque. Other Darts medallists were Jerome Lyness, Paul Prendergast, Mike Keohane, Jack O’Brien.
Golden girl Deirdre Faul, a liver transplant recipient from Dalkey, Dublin won five medals at the Games. She broke two World Transplant time records in Swimming at the 100m Breaststroke and the 400m freestyle events and she also was awarded with a Silver in the 50m Breaststroke and 200m Freestyle, an extraordinary accomplishment as just days previously the 51 year old defended and won her World Transplant title in Squash, her seventh in a Row since her first win at the 2007 games. Dubliner Peter Heffernan and Noel Marsden from Westmeath also put in great performances at the swimming pool with Peter winning Bronze medals for the both the 50m and 100m backstroke events while Noel also won a Bronze medal for the 50m Backstroke.
The eldest Team Ireland member John McAleer (age 81) from Newtownabbey, Antrim won two Silver medals in Pétanque and Golf. John, a retired university lecturer and kidney transplant recipient, had the company of his wife Bridget who supported him at the Games.
Rachel Eagleton from Bettystown, Meath the youngest woman on the team celebrated her 33rd birthday with the team during the week. The chartered accountant and kidney transplant recipient won a Gold and Silver medal in Tennis, her Gold was for Tennis Doubles with Sheila Gregan from Nenagh, Tipperary who also won a Bronze and Silver medal in a 5km road race individual event and team event with two fellow kidney transplant recipients who also secured more than one medal at the Games Sinead McGowan from Galway (living in Australia) and Anna Pokojska from Kerry.
Another retired Garda on the Team, Tony Gavigan from Navan, was part of a very strong team of twelve golfers who secured an impressive 3 Gold, 2 Silver and 4 Bronze medals for the team in individual and golf pairs events held at Graham Wylie’s Close House Golf ‘Filly’ course. Tony and Ron Grainger from Dublin won Bronze in the Golf pairs competition, Tony also won a Silver medal and Ron won a Bronze for their individual golf scores on another day. A few days later Ron, a retired urologist, also went on to win a Bronze medal at track and field in the 100m sprint. Other golfers who were awarded with medals were Garry Campbell (Gold), Michael Dwyer (Gold), Marie O’Connor (Gold), John McAleer (Silver), Eoin Hurley (Bronze).
There was an abundance of messages of support and encouragement for the team including letters from Minister Simon Harris and Minister Shane Ross as well as social media posts from the British Embassy, Cycling Ireland, the Confederation of Golf in Ireland and Swim Ireland while other Sports governing bodies sent good wishes too. A video message was sent by soccer legend Niall Quinn as well as the Abu Dhabi Rose of Tralee whose sister is a liver transplant recipient. Throughout the week the general public continued to send in goodwill messages to the team on social media.
Transplant Team Ireland squad includes 29 men and 9 women ranging in age from 16 to 81 and they all have received transplants including 1 heart, 1 lung, 4 liver, 1 bone marrow and 31 kidney. Team Doctor Ayanfe Obilana who was with the team throughout the week will also be travelling home with them before returning to work at Cavan General Hospital.
At the World Transplant Games athletes competed in their respective age categories in the following events: petanque, badminton, cycling, darts, golf, 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.
For more information on World Transplant Games and the Irish athletes visit the Irish team blog http://www.transplantteamireland.ie Visit the Games website http://www.worldtransplantgames.org
THE FULL IRISH PANEL IS AS FOLLOWS (their individual ‘athlete profiles’ are on the team blog http://www.transplantteamireland.ie):-
ANTRIM: JohnMcAleer, Newtownabbey (kidney) (oldest member of the team)
CAVAN: Aodhagan Cullen, Cavan (kidney)
CLARE: Marie O’Connor,Lahinch (kidney)
CORK: MikeKeohane, Rosscarbery (liver); Charlie Ryan, Cobh (liver); Michael Kiely, Mitchelstown, on the Limerick border (kidney); Pat O’Sullivan, Mallow (kidney)
Michael O’Shea, Mallow (Heart)
DONEGAL: Kieran Murray, Ramelton (kidney)
GALWAY: Sinead McGowan, Renmore (living in Australia) (kidney)
KERRY: AnnaPokojska,Killarney,via Poland Did the Ring of Kerry Cycle previous day (kidney)
KILDARE: James Nolan, Kilcullen (kidney) International award winning butcher – underwent a living donor kidney transplant 32 years ago (kidney)
KILKENNY VIA LIMERICK: Emma O’Sullivan (kidney)
LIMERICK via UK: Trevor Lynch,Cappamore, (Bone Marrow)
LOUTH: TommyMarrett, Ardee (kidney)
MAYO via UK: Julie O’Neill,Westport- Award winning businesswoman, underwent living donor transplant from brother 37 years ago (kidney);
MEATH: TonyGavigan, 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: TomasFlannery, Tandarageebane (Lung);
TIPPERARY: Orla Hogan, Nenagh (kidney); Sheila Gregan, Nenagh (kidney);
WATERFORD via Dublin: Eoin Hurley (age 25, 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: RonGrainger, 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);
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 fromBalbriggan, Dublin
TEAM DOCTOR Ayanfe Obilana
For organ donor cardsFreetext DONOR to 50050 or visit website http://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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Colin White, Team Manager Tel. 353 1 6205306 mob. 353 87 6843644 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gwen O’Donoghue, Media co-ordinator. Mob. 353 86 8241447 Email: email@example.com
Harry Ward, Team Captain mob. 353 85 2137512 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org