European Transplant Games In Sardinia

Transplant Team Ireland swim and swing their way to success on Day 2 of European Transplant Games in Sardinia.

Transplant Team Ireland continued its winning streak on the second day of events at the 10th European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships in Cagliari, Sardinia winning at total of 12 medals including 3 Gold 5 Silver and 4 bronze.  Irish swimmers and tennis players excelled today with a staggering 3 Gold medals and two silver medals won by Golden girl Deirdre Faul and all three of her swimming teammates winning medals at S. Sicbaldi swimming pool. Added to this were two medals, a Silver and Bronze, in Tennis singles event, as the youngest member of Transplant Team Ireland, Rachel Eagleton (31), battled it out for her hard fought Silver medal against the overall winner, an Italian in the final and Rachel’s teammate Aoife Murray took Bronze in the semi final. 

Champion Swimmer Deirdre Faul (age 50) kept up her stellar success record scooping three Gold and two Silver medals in her five races. Her first Gold was won in the 50m Freestyle event which was crowned with her personal best time of 36.51 seconds beating a Hungarian who took Silver and a UK athlete who came third.  A couple hours earlier Deirdre, a liver transplant recipient from Dalkey, seized a Silver medal in the 400m Freestyle where once again a Hungarian proved to be stiff competition coming in first and  third.  In the afternoon, despite the heat and humidity the formidable Deirdre went on to win another Gold in the 50m Breaststroke with another personal best time and she also won a Silver in the 100m breaststroke. She creamed her mighty performance in her final swim race of the day scooping her third Gold in the 100m Freestyle event.

Deirdre’s Teammate Peter Heffernan from Skerries, Dublin also proved he was a force to be reckoned with by winning a Silver medal in his second last race of the day – the 100m freestyle. He also won two bronze medals, a Bronze in the 400m Freestyle swimming event with a UK swimmer taking Gold and a Hungarian taking Silver and he then went on to win his second Bronze of the day in the 50m Freestyle also against the same top three competitor placings as in his earlier race. 

At the end of her phenomenal day Deirdre Faul said, “I’m pleased with how I swam today. I achieved two personal bests, one in the 50m freestyle and one in the 50m breast-stroke. The schedule was very busy and it was a challenge with mixed age categories. I’ve really appreciated the support of Swim Ireland and I’m looking forward to working with them again on improving times for the World Games. Of course a big thanks to my donor and donor family for giving me the gift of life”.

Delighted with his success Peter Heffernan, a kidney transplant recipient said, “It was a great day here. We all did well. It’s great to see the full Irish team getting medals at the swimming. On days like this I want to say thanks to my donor and spread the message that organ donation works and that life goes on after transplant. In fact you get a news lease of life after transplantation”.

Triathlete Sheila Gregan from Nenagh, Co Tipperary continued in her streak of success since winning a Silver medal yesterday in the 5km race she topped this by winning her second Silver medal today in the 50m freestyle swimming event coming in the same race ahead of fellow teammate Orla Hogan, also from Nenagh, who won a Bronze medal.

Sheila Gregan, a kidney transplant recipient said, “This is my favourite discipline. I’ve been training with Nenagh masters this year. There was very tough competition in the pool as there was mixed age categories so it makes the achievement all the more special. I’m forever grateful for my donor and their family. I’m so proud to be swimming for my country. It’s a great honour.” 

Orla Hogan has undergone 4 kidney transplants and this month celebrates the 10th anniversary of the living donor kidney transplant she received from her brother Cathal. Orla said after winning her bronze in swimming “It’s just great being here and that all of us are well enough to compete and to show our donors that organ donation works”.

Sheila will compete in her final event, the 20km cycling race, on Wednesday while Orla has two more disciplines to compete in later in the week – 10 pin bowling and the 3km Power walk.

At another venue across the city in Cagliari at the Su Planu Tennis Club, Rachel Eagleton, the youngest memberof Transplant Team Ireland (31), from Bettystown, Co Meath played her way to the tennis singles finals where she won a hard fought Silver medal against an Italian who is the world champion in the 18-39 age category.  In the qualifiers for the same Tennis singles event,  liver transplant recipient, Aoife Murray (also 31) from Clonsilla in Dublin played in the semi-final and came away with a Bronze medal after losing out to the eventual overall Italian winner.  Finian Farrell, a kidney transplant recipient from Mullingar, Co Westmeath was knocked out in his first tennis singles competition by the current World champion from Poland.

Rachel, a chartered accountant said, “Today was really enjoyable. I’m happy with how I played and I’m looking forward to playing in the mixed doubles tomorrow with Pat O’Sullivan (from Cork). It’s been a great week so far. A big thank you to my donor and their family. The decision they made is why I’m here today.”

Aoife Murray said after receiving a bronze in Tennis said, “It was a great experience taking part in the Tennis competition today. Some fantastic games of tennis were played by all the athletes in some extremely hot conditions.  I just want to thank the team for all their support and my mother who is here with me and also family and friends at home. But most of all I want to thank my donor and the donor family for giving me a new life which means I can compete at these wonderful games with athletes from 25 different countries. It’s been a great experience so far with much more to come throughout the week.”

The team’s success today follows on from the first day of events at the Games (Monday 18th June) when they won 8 medals including 2 Gold, 1 Silver and 5 Bronze in the 5km and Darts.

Members of the 23 strong Irish team will continue to compete in other sporting disciplines including Bowling, petanque, track and field, archery and golf until the games come to a close on Saturday and returning home to Dublin airport on Sunday next 24th June. 

The Irish team of 10 women and 13 men ranging in age from 31 to 80 and includes 20 athletes who underwent kidney, pancreas or liver transplants as well 3 dialysis patients. The team are competing amongst competitors from 25 nations which for the first time in the Championships history will include Russia and Kazakhstan. The European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships are a celebration of life and showcase the value of sport and regular physical activity for people on dialysis and transplant recipients.

The European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships are open to all kidney, liver, heart, lung, pancreas, bone marrow transplant recipients as well as dialysis patients. The multi-sport event includes athletics, badminton, cycling, darts, golf, mini marathon, petanque, swimming, table tennis, tennis, ten pin bowling, virtual triathlon and the hosts have also added archery and surf-casting. Athletes are divided into six age groups (18-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70+). Swimming and track and field bring the sporting specialties total to 39. 

A homecoming reception for Transplant Team Ireland will take place at Dublin airport’s arrivals hall (Terminal 1) when the team arrives home on a Eurowings flight from Dusseldorf on Sunday 24th June around 3.15pm.

The Irish Kidney Association is looking forward to bringing the biennial European Games back to Ireland in 2020 after it successfully hosted the 6th European Transplant & Dialysis Games in Dublin in 2010 which attracted over 500 participants and supporters from 23 countries.

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

For more information on the 10th European Transplant & Dialysis Sports Championships and the Irish athletes visit the team blog or visit the Games website

The full Irish panel is as follows:-

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

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 (works at Beaumont Hospital) native of Co. Down

Organ Donor Cards can also be obtained by phoning the Irish Kidney Association tel. 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050. Visit website or download the ‘Digital Organ Donor card’. Your wishes to be an organ donor can also be included on the new format driving licence which is represented by Code 115.