Nine Dubliners to feature in Coventry Games

by Aaron Dunne
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Nine Dublin athletes will participate in the British Transplant Games to be held in Coventry, UK at the end of July.

Along with fellow athletes from Transplant Sport Ireland, they will take part in the 4 day sports competition amongst Heart, Lung, Liver, Kidney, Pancreas & Bone Marrow transplant recipients and kidney dialysis patients from all over the UK, Northern Ireland, and even Australia.

Live donors also compete at these Games and Team Ireland is delighted to have three living donors compete in Coventry.

Transplant Sport Ireland has 26 transplanted adults, 5 transplanted underage athletes, and 3 living donors competing from Cavan, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Mayo, Tipperary, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow making it the largest ever Irish team to compete at these Games.

Among the Dublin contingent is Team Captain Harry Ward from Balydoyle himself a kidney recipient. Harry – a happy granddad to Ada and Cúan – attended his first Games in Hungary in 2006 while he was still receiving Dialysis treatment and now competes as a transplant recipient, having received his transplant in 2007. He will travel to Coventry with his loving and supportive wife Mary. Harry brings joy, support and a lot of laughter to Team Ireland and ensures that the event is a smooth and enjoyable experience for the whole team. Like his fellow athletes, Harry is here to honour his donor and the donor’s family whilst actively promoting the importance of Organ Donation. These Games are all about organ donation and proves how it works. So please Have the conversation about donating organs with your families.

Team Ireland also has 3 living donors this year including Ivan Kinahan who donated a kidney to his son Sam in June 2019. Ivan is a keen runner having competed at many levels including the World Masters Championship in 2015, so is very much looking forward to his 5k challenge. This will be their first Games experience and they are both very much looking forward to it as both will compete – Dad Ivan in the Living Donors section and son Sam as part of the Children’s Team Ireland. Sam promises: to try as hard as I can and try my best and have fun. Dad Ivan wants to: meet other people and families who have had a similar experience to us. Also want to empower potential donors by demonstrating life after live donation and raise awareness of the beauty of organ donation. Sam will take part in the Obstacle Course, Cup Stacking, and the Ball Throw among others.

Laura McDowell from Dalkey is also part of Team Ireland’s junior athletes competing in Coventry. Born with Biliary Atresi, Laura subsequently received part of her aunt’s liver in 2010 when she was 19 months. Since then she has dealt with the challenges of illness, isolation and having a rare, unknown disease as she grows up.

Laura will take part in the 2.5km run, Long Jump, 200m run and Table Tennis and has participated in several British Transplant Games: in Birmingham 2018, Newport, Wales in 2019 (winning 3 Gold) and Leeds 2022 (winning 3 Gold, and 1 Bronze). The transplant games and Irish Team give Laura and her family a chance to meet other people who have transplants. Knowing the transplant community massively helps with navigating school and other parts of life where being a transplanted teenager can be challenging, so the Games give Laura the support and experiences she needs to grow up with a liver transplant – all in a great fun few days. She hopes to compete like in Newport and Leeds, be a proud member of the Irish Team.

Riyadh Abdelkader from Tallaght is waiting on his second transplant but is looking forward to competing again, and meeting people in the same/similar situation as himself…but mainly to show the power of transplantation. Whilst it’s Riyadh’s first games, his advice to those waiting on a transplant is: Keep going, no matter how hard it can be, there is always someone out there that would give anything to be in your position. Be grateful, respectful, kind and smile….. We are alive!

Jayson Flynn from Ballyfermot received a liver transplant last summer and is taking part in the Games to represent his donor who not only saved my life but 6 other people. Jason adds: I am also looking forward to showing other families and people that becoming an organ donor works and it really does give life. I am just looking forward to be able to represent my donor and my country by going to the Games. Coincidentally, the day of the football competition will also mark Jayson’s first year Anniversary since his liver transplant and he is excited to be part of the Team: I just cannot wait to be able to walk out on my field with the other people and celebrating being alive.

Skerries man Peter Heffernan has competed at several British Transplant Games including last year’s Games in Oxford winning 2 medals in his swimming events. He has also represented Ireland in the pool at several European and World Games – travelling as far as Argentina – and he is a veteran medallist for Team Ireland. Peter received a kidney transplant in 2011 and is the proud father of two sons, Pearce and Cian. Peter says, about the Games, “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”. His wife Trish travels with him to the Games and will support and cheer him on once again in Coventry.

John Moran from Glasnevin is also a seasoned athlete and has participated in his first World Transplant Games in 1987, competing in the cycling and running events. Since then, he has been a stalwart member of Transplant Team Ireland, successfully medalling at all the games. It is fair to say that for the last 37 years, John has dominated the Cycling Road Race and Time Trial. But he has also won medals in the 200m, 800m, 1500m and 4 x 100m team relay. In Coventry, John will take part in the Cycling events along with the 800m and the 1500m track events. He received his kidney nearly 40 years ago, from his brother Frank and John says: I really appreciate that my brother Frank donated his kidney to me in 1985. This gift has allowed me to live a full and healthy life. I’ve been married to Angela for over 34 years and have four grown up children; Paul Michelle Stephen and Sarah. I hope to compete to the best of my ability and encourage others to take part. Keeping fit and healthy has played a big part in my life, and being part of the transplant family has encouraged me over the years. All this is possible because of organ donation and transplantation.

Darragh Stapleton from Lucan received a liver transplant in 2022 having been diagnosed with a rare progressive liver disease in 2013 called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). Over the past couple of years his disease and symptoms worsened significantly and in June 2022, one month after his wedding, he was placed on the liver transplant list. Later in the year he received a call from the transplant coordinator in St. Vincent’s Hospital that there was a suitable donor match. Thankfully the transplant was a success and Darragh has made huge progress since then. Darragh has been involved in numerous sports throughout my life, mainly Soccer, Gaelic Football and Hurling. He played Gaelic Football for Dublin for a number of years at underage level. During his transplant recovery Darragh came across the Transplant Ireland Soccer team and followed their progress. He says: It was so motivating to see people who went through organ transplants being so active and being able to compete against other teams in tournaments. Having a goal to play soccer again with these lads and to take part in the transplant games really helped with my recovery as it gave me something to aim for. I am taking part at the games to honour my donor family and to raise awareness of organ donation. Darragh wants to honour my donor family and to raise awareness of organ donation. I think about my donor every single day and the Games for me is a way to do something positive in their memory. I also hope to motivate others, who may be waiting for or recovering from a transplant, to know that it is possible to be active and involved in sport again.

The stories of these Dublin athletes are inspirational – of facing adversity head on and valuing the most precious gift of all – life. Team Ireland’s showcases the success of organ donation and transplantation whilst offering inspiration to those who are newly transplanted or newly diagnosed with organ failure. To keep up to date on Ireland’s progress, visit and their corresponding social media platforms. The Team have one simple request to everyone – to please consider carrying an Organ Donor Card and Have the conversation – Say YES to Organ Donation

Jayson Flynn (Ballyfermot – Liver recipient), Darragh Stapleton (Lucan– Liver recipient), Peter Heffernan (Skerries– Kidney recipient) John Moran (Glasnevin– Kidney recipient), Ivan Kinahan (Living Donor to son Sam) and Team Captain Harry Ward (Baldoyle).

Front: Sam Kinahan (Liver recipient from Dad Ivan), and Laura McDowell (Dalkey – Kidney recipient)

Missing from photo is Riyadh Abdelkader from Tallaght

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