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One of the most decorated Gaelic footballers of all time, Peter Canavan, dropped in to offer the wisdom of his sporting career in a motivational talk to members of Transplant Team Ireland ahead of their departure next month to represent Ireland at the 10th European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships, Cagliari, Sardinia.

Members of the 24-strong team gathered from all over Ireland to get the benefit of the retired Tyrone intercounty footballer’s knowledge earlier this month.

Peter Canavan, who has won two Senior All-Ireland Football Medals for Tyrone and has been awarded six All Stars as well as numerous other sporting accolades, expressed his admiration for Transplant Team Ireland, commenting: “You are an inspiration to us all. Many of you are now fighting fit having faced huge health battles which many of you have overcome thanks to organ donation, while three of you, are still battling through organ failure and like the rest of the team imbue great personal inner strength and positivity by keeping active and engaging in competitive sport.

“I now encourage you to harness your positivity in your final preparations for competition and aim to be the best that you can be in your chosen sports. Be confident in your abilities when competing at the European Championships and show how much can be achieved by embracing life through sport”, he concluded.

Over 25 countries and 470 participants are expected to participate in the 10th European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships in June.

The current panel of Transplant Team Ireland includes 10 women and 14 men, ranging in age from 31 to 80. Among them are five liver transplant recipients, 16 kidney transplant recipients, and three dialysis patients, including two women who underwent combined kidney and pancreas transplants but, while they await another kidney transplant, their pancreas transplants are still functioning.

At 80 years of age, retired university lecturer and kidney transplant recipient John McAleer from Antrim, is likely to be the oldest participant overall at the forthcoming European Games, having previously been the oldest competitor at the last two biennial games.

Rachel Eagleton, a kidney transplant recipient from Bettystown, Co Meath and Aoife Murray from Clonsilla in Dublin, who underwent a liver transplant, are the two youngest members of the current team and are 31 years old.

Team Manager, Colin White said, “The Irish team has developed a wonderful reputation at the European Championships over the years. There is a great history of top results – regularly finishing in the top 5 countries on the medals table. Also, the team’s sense of fair play and camaraderie are always appreciated”.

He added: “Team members take on the personal challenges offered by the Championships, but they also take on the collective responsibility to showcase the importance and success of organ donation and transplantation. I always enjoy the impact that the team’s endeavours have on others living with organ failure. Their positive can-do attitude inspires those newly diagnosed to realise that there is the potential for a very full and rewarding future”.

Picture Conor McCabe Photography

The Irish Team has enjoyed great success at other European Championships over the past number of years, the last European Championship in Finland (2016) saw them sweep up a staggering 21 Gold, 19 Silver and 29 Bronze medals. This placed them in fifth position on the medals table with host country Finland – a much larger team of 96 athletes – taking top position out of 24 competing countries.

The European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships are a celebration of life, showcasing the value of sport and regular physical activity for people on dialysis and transplant recipients. Athletes are divided into six age groups (18-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70+).

The Irish Kidney Association is the charity organisation which manages Transplant Team Ireland’s participation at British, European and World Transplant Games events.

The full Irish panel is as follows:

Antrim: John McAleer, Newtownabbey (kidney) (oldest member of the team)\

Carlow: Tony Gartland, Hacketstown (liver)

Cork: Mike Keohane, Roscarbery, Clonakilty (liver); Patrick O’Sullivan, Mallow (kidney) Charlie Ryan, Cobh (liver);

Clare: Marie O’Connor, Lahinch (kidney)

Donegal:  Kieran Murray, Ramelton (kidney) 

Kerry:  Stephen Byrne, Tralee (kidney); 

Kildare: James Nolan, Kilcullen (kidney)

Kilkenny / Limerick: Emma O’Sullivan, Glin, Co. Limerick and a native of Kilkenny (kidney)

Meath: Rachel Eagleton, Bettystown (kidney) (youngest member of team)

Roscommon: Linda Waters, Roscommon town (dialysis, pancreas transplant)

Tipperary: Orla Hogan, Nenagh (kidney); and Sheila Gregan, Nenagh (kidney)

Westmeath: Finian Farrell, Mullingar (kidney) 

Dublin: Peter Heffernan, Skerries (kidney); Ron Grainger, Castleknock, D.15 (kidney); Paul Prendergast, Santry, D.9 (kidney); Aoife Murray, Clonsilla, D.15 (liver); Harry Ward, TEAM CAPTAIN, Baldoyle, D.13 (kidney); Chikoyo White, Balbriggan (dialysis); Leonard Ryan, Tallaght, D. 24 (kidney); Verina Borrisova, (newcomer) native of Bulgaria now living in Tallaght, D. 24 (dialysis with pancreas transplant); and Deirdre Faul, Dalkey (liver). 

Team Manager: Colin White from Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

Team Doctor: Heather Gunning, Dublin 8