McElligott transformed and up for everything

by James Hendicott

STARRING in RTE TV show Operation Transformation, Christy McElligott’s life has been thoroughly transformed.
McElligott played soccer for St Patrick’s Athletic and the Ireland junior side, and was turning out for Ballymun United when he was involved in a horrific car accident on his way to a match in 2001.
McElligott’s vehicle was struck by a truck on a narrow country road in Wexford, and the footballer lost his right leg almost immediately, and was forced to crawl from his vehicle as it caught fire at the scene.
Unsurprisingly, he gained weight in the aftermath. By the time McElligott appeared on Operation Transformation as a team leader in 2017, he felt extremely unhealthy. He lost four stone within the eight week show, citing the RTE cameras as a major motivating factor in forcing him through the process.
“The experience was life changing,” McElligott recalls. “If I’m honest I loved having people do so much for me after the accident. You’re saying to yourself ‘this is brilliant’, but you don’t think of the consequences. Operation Transformation gave me all the tools I needed to move forward. It was a battle afterwards to keep going, but you have to do it for yourself.”
A year later, McElligott is very much back into sport, having recently made his debut for the Ireland amputee soccer team, whom he’ll also be representing in the first ever amputee European Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, later this year. Ahead of that, he’s focused on cycling.
“The Sport Ireland Tour Of Meath reached out to me and asked me if I’d like to take part,” McElligott explains. “They’ve been really great, setting me up with a bike and talking to me about the event.
“I’ll be riding a hand cycle, which is different. It’s a lot of strain on my chest and arms, but I’m getting better at it. I’m up to 20km in training.
“I’ll be doing the 11km family race on the Saturday, which can be signed up for on the morning of the event, and I’m thinking I the organisers are keen for me to go for the 50km on the Sunday, too.
“It’s further than I’ve ever gone by a long way, but I think it’s worth a try. It’s tough, because when most people cycle they’re using their two biggest muscles. Obviously I’m not.
“I used to be the person who would say no to things like this. I’m really open to suggestion on them now. I’d like to do an event for charity, for example, because I’ve received so much help. Maybe next time around I’ll do that.”
As well as the 11km and 50km, the Tour Of Meath will also offer races at 100km and 160kms, aimed at exploring what McElligott describes as “really beautiful countryside” around the Royal county. The races take place on July 29th and 30th, with the bigger distances on the 30th.
Cyclists age six and up are welcome, providing they don’t need stabilisers, with age limits varying depending on the distance of the event entered. Cheaper sign up is available in advance via the website.
McElligott’s progress in the soccer is equally impressive. “I played a tournament at UL, where we played against Everton, Manchester City and Partick Thistle,” he recalls of his return to the competitive amputee soccer game about eight weeks ago, having previously managed an Irish side at the World Cup.
“I scored two goals against Manchester City, which I was very pleased with. There’s a great community about amputee soccer events, and it’s really great to be back involved as a player.
“Through all this experience, the one thing that never changed after my accident was my love of football, and that’s a common theme amongst the players. It’s a friendly, supportive community off the pitch, but once you get into the game people take it just as seriously as any other game.”
As for the future? “I’m really open to suggestion on what I do next,” McElligott concludes. “I’m not going to disregard anything now, like I did before. It doesn’t mean I’ll do everything that’s put in front of me, of course.
“There’s only one of me. But I won’t be disregarding any idea at all before it’s even come into my head.” Life, clearly, has changed very much for the better.

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