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PRESS RELEASE 17th August, 2012

Olympic medallists urge Transplant Team to ‘go for gold’
Messages of support abound for brave athletes who fly out to
European Transplant & Dialysis Games in Croatia

Katie Taylor and her fellow Irish Olympians were amongst the many well-wishers who sent messages of support to the 26 brave athletes who will fly out to Zagreb, Croatia today for the 7th European Transplant & Dialysis Games.   Hoping to emulate the recent success of our Olympians at London 2012, 17 men and 9 women, will represent their country and celebrate life through sport as well as promote organ donation.

Ranging in age from 18 to 74, Transplant Team Ireland will be the biggest team to compete at the forthcoming Games which will take place from 18th – 25th August and will involve over 300 athletes from 28 countries throughout Europe. The Irish athletes gathered for a pre-departure reception at the Clarion Hotel, Dublin Airport earlier today encouraged by the many letters of support they received and which are now proudly posted on the team blog www.transplantteamireland.wordpress.com  Members of the public can also offer messages of support in its Guestbook.

A letter from Team Ireland – London Olympics 2012 said, “we’ve had a great Olympics in London, thanks to the support of everyone, including the entire Transplant team. Now it is our turn to say ‘go for gold’ and we hope our Transplant athletes will come back with lots of medals and personal bests. Here’s to a superb event and lots of success. From Sonia, Katie, John Joe, Paddy, Michael, Cian, Annalise, Rob and Team Ireland – London 2012”.

Other well-wishers included the inspirational explorer, adventure athlete and author Mark Pollock who wrote, “as the Irish Team prepare for the European Transplant & Dialysis Games I want to pass on my best wishes to all the athletes. As a former able bodied athlete who has continued to compete after acquiring both blindness and paralysis, I understand how important competitive sport is for the health of the body and mind. Enjoy the competition, enjoy the hardship and enjoy the glory.”

Endorsements also came from the sporting body Athletics Ireland, the Minister for Sport and Tourism, medical professionals, the transplant community and the general public.

The Minister for Sport & Tourism Leo Varadkar, in wishing the team luck at the Games, said that “each of you have persevered along a difficult path to get to this stage. It is a tremendous honour that you as athletes, your families and friends should be very proud of.  I am certain that all 26 athletes will be marvelous ambassadors for Ireland, representing both your country and your sport with honour and pride. As well as competing at the Games you are also highlighting the enormous benefits that organ donation and transplant brings.”

In a letter from Athletics Ireland, Mr. John Foley, Chief Executive  said that he agreed with a comment by Transplant Surgeon and former seventies football All Star David Hickey when he gave a motivational talk to Transplant Team Ireland referring to them as “true Corinthians and more”. Mr Foley said “I agree totally with this description and commend you and all the people involved in the Irish Kidney Association for your work in supporting the team and for your on-going support of patients and their families affected by kidney disease”.

Director of the National Organ Donation & Transplantation Office, Prof. Jim Egan, in his message of encouragement said “it is testament to the courage of families of the donors and recipients that this event is taking place with a strong Irish representation”. Prof. Egan’s letter also commended “the efforts of Intensive Care Staff around the country who underpin the transplant services in Beaumont Hospital, St. Vincent’s University Hospital and the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital”. Prof. Egan asserted that the Irish Team’s participation at the Games “is a huge mark of respect to Irish citizens who participate in a strong culture of organ donation”.

Speaking about the forthcoming European Games, Mr. Colin White, Team Manager said, “we are delighted with the support we have received from all sections of the community. I am excited about this year’s Games in Zagreb. The Irish Team has a great reputation for fair play and strong competitiveness at international events. Our team of 26 competitors, including 6 newcomers, has prepared well and we are looking forward to joining our friends from across Europe in celebrating life through sport. The message from these Games is clear – Organ Donation Works! I encourage the public to Think About It, Talk About It and make a commitment to Organ Donation.”

Team Captain Harry Ward from Baldoyle, Dublin has represented Ireland at numerous international Games events both as a dialysis patient and in more recent years as a transplant recipient thanks to his kidney transplant which he received in 2007.

Athletes will compete in badminton, tennis, cycling, darts, golf, petanque, swimming, table tennis, ten pin bowling, tennis, volleyball, mini-marathon and track and field events.

Supporters can follow the Irish team’s progress and post messages of support in a guestbook on a blog www.transplantteamireland.wordpress.com   Further information can also be obtained from the Games website www.etdg2012zagreb.com

Members of Transplant Team Ireland are as follows:-

Antrim: John McAleer, Newtownabbey.
Cork: Mike Keohane, Roscarbery; Charlie Ryan, Cobh;  Catherine Murphy, Aghabullogue; and Anne Lankester, Roscarbery
Clare: Eoghan O’Neill, Newmarket-on-Fergus (now living in Limerick)
Donegal: Noel McGeever, Letterkenny
Galway: Maura O’Sullivan, Kilcolgan; and Linda Waters, Athenry.
Kildare: James Nolan, The Curragh.
Laois: Alison Honner, Portlaoise; Niall McAuliffe, Abbeyleix; and Robbie Lyons (youngest team member), the Swan, via Athy.
Limerick: John Loftus, Clarina.
Offaly: Declan Guing, Edenderry
Roscommon: Monica Finn, Roscommon town.
and Shane Lafferty, Monksland, Athlone.
Sligo: Bridie Nicholson, Sligo town and Megan Fahy from Toonaphubble.
Tipperary: Sheila Gregan, Nenagh.
Dublin: Leonard Ryan, Tallaght, D.24; James Reynolds, Tallaght, D.24,
Paul Prendergast, Santry Avenue, D.9; Owen Kelleher, Lucan; Peter Heffernan, Skerries  and Team Captain, Harry Ward, Baldoyle, D.13;
Team Medical Director  Yvonne Ryan
Team Physiotherapist   Clare Hogan
Team Manager    Colin White

For an organ donor card Freetext the word DONOR to 50050 or visit website www.ika.ie  It is now possible to download an organ donor card on smartphones  by searching for ‘Organ Donor ECard’  at the iphone store or android market place.

The team will arrive home from the European Games at approximately 11.20pm on Saturday night, 25th August into Terminal Two at Dublin airport on an Aer Lingus flight from Budapest (EI0679).

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