Westmeath men gearing up for World Transplant Games

Photo shows, Team members Finian Farrell from Mullingar, Colin White, team manager, and Noel Marsden, Athlone.

Three Westmeath men will be among the large Irish contingent taking part in the World Transplant Games in Newcastle Gateshead, UK this week (August 17-24).

Irish athletes will compete in their respective age categories in the following events: badminton, cycling, darts, golf, petanque, squash, swimming, table tennis, ten pin bowling, tennis, mini-marathon, and track and field.

Mullingar man Finian Farrell, a two-time kidney transplant recipient (1989 and 2008), will be competing in the 50-59 years category in the mixed tennis doubles (partnered with Aoife Murray), the petanque singles and doubles (with Charlie Ryan), and darts singles and triples.

Finian, who is married with five daughters and one granddaughter, has previously participated in the European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Championships – in 2010 (Dublin), 2016 (Finland) and 2018 (Italy).

He works with the Department of Social Protection, and in his spare time he enjoys tennis and football.

“I am so delighted to be able to honour my donor’s memory,” Finian said of his forthcoming participation in the games.

“When I first travelled with the team in 2016, I was very wary of going away with people I didn’t know, but straight away I was made to feel welcome. The team are like a second family now. Also meeting other national competitors has been brilliant.

“I am looking forward to seeing the people I met at previous events and making new friends. Also, if possible, coming home with a medal in honour of my donor.

“I would highly recommend this experience to anybody thinking of taking part.”

Also travelling to the games with Transplant Team Ireland is Mullingar native John Connell, who lives in South Africa. He received a kidney transplant in 2011 from a living donor – his sister Frances.

John will be competing at this year’s World Transplant Games in the 60-69 category in cycling (10k time trial, 20k team time trial and 30k road race).

Describing himself as “very happy to be hale and hearty”, John previously took part in the European Transplant and Dialysis Sports Championships in Poland (2014), and the World Transplant Games in South Africa in 2013.

John says that the best part of being involved with Transplant Team Ireland is the strong friendships formed, and the comfort of shared experiences with the only people who can really understand what it is like to be transplanted.

Having lived in the UK before, John is looking forward to making a return visit to Newcastle this year to have “lots of fun, laughter and good cycling competition”.

The third Westmeath man making the trip to Newcastle is Athlone’s Noel Marsden, who received a kidney transplant in 2017.

He will be competing in the 30-39 category in petanque doubles (with Jerome Lyness), swimming (100m freestyle, 50m backstroke and 100m breaststroke) and badminton doubles (with Tommy Marrett).

This is Noel’s first World Transplant Games.

He took part in the Europeans in 2017, and at the British games in 2017 while still on dialysis.

Dad to Ava and a big fan of Connacht rugby and Aston Villa, Noel says: “I am excited to be attending my first games since my transplant, and I hope to do my kidney donor proud.

“I’m motivated to prove organ donation works by beating my own swimming PBs and encouraging more people to join Transplant Team Ireland in Dublin next year for the European games.”

This year, Transplant Team Ireland has gratefully received support from Swim Ireland, Athletics Ireland and Irish Squash. The ongoing coaching support from Swim Ireland is particularly welcomed, while Astellas Pharma Ltd has again provided some sponsorship towards the costs of running the team.

For more information on World Transplant Games and the Irish athletes, visit the Irish team blog www.transplantteamireland.ie, or visit the games website, www.worldtransplantgames.org.

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