The Younger Years
As a young lad I grew up playing soccer starting off with Carriglea Boys before joining to St Joseph’s Boys of Sallynoggin where I played for seven years. During those seven years I was introduced to Gaelic Football and began to play with Kilmacud Crokes and had to juggle the commitments of both. I was always a defender when playing soccer but Gaelic was a different story. Full forward, corner forward, then out to half forward, further out to midfield before eventually I settled as a half back.
After a year of playing both sports I was called up to the Dublin Minor football team which was a huge honour. To train and play with the best players in Dublin around my age was a huge thrill. It was a year where decisions had to be made. Still playing soccer I was scouted and invited over to a trial at Leicester City FC and Blackburn Rovers FC. After plenty of thought I decided to stick with Gaelic Football and this choice would give me a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Gaelic Football Success
I was selected to play for Leinster U17 team in a provincial tournament in DCU which led to me being chosen to represent Ireland in the U17 International Rules Games in Australia. Travelling to Australia during Easter holidays was a huge experience for a 16 year old and one that I will never forget. We visited Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth playing against an Australian U17 team in each city. Sadly we lost the series.
College life took me to DCU where I studied to be a teacher of physical education, science and biology. I enjoyed my time in DCU both studying and playing football. During my time there I was part of the Kilmacud Crokes team that won the All Ireland Club Championship on St Patrick’s Day. It was a massive day for the Parish and something that will always mean a lot to me. As well as club success, I was on the winning Sigerson Cup for DCU in 2010.
Footballing success continued into 2011 with an unbelievable year for us, our families and the people of Dublin. Winning the All Ireland Championship with Dublin for first time in 16 years created memories that will last a lifetime. After beating Kerry in a great game we arrived back in the Burlington Hotel for the reception and later on that evening I received a massive bonus being named ‘Man Of The Match’ and being named in Team of The Year but for me the main thing was the Celtic Cross that we all won as a team. In October further personal achievement arrived when I was named as an All Stars to top off an unimaginable year.
For me that’s where all the happy stories ended. 4 days after the All Ireland Final victory I was diagnosed as being Coeliac and December brought the news of the Type 1 Diabetic diagnosis. I had all the symptoms associated with Diabetes but it was only after two and a half weeks that my worst fears were confirmed. Constantly thirsty, waking up several times during the night to use the loo, losing weight, extremely hungry and physically drained. It was my GP who called me to inform me of this life changing event and still remained extremely positive about the whole thing. He mentioned many sports people who controlled their Diabetes which helped ease the fear and anger of my own diagnosis. It just went from one bad thing to another. Feeling sorry for myself and asking all the sympathetic questions. Why me? It’s not fair. I’ve always looked after myself. I never drank, never smoked and yet still developed this illness.
Luckily for me there is strong medical team behind the Dublin Football team who assisted me with everything and made the acceptance a little easier. Based in Beaumont hospital under the guidance of Dr. Diarmuid Smith and Dr. Chris Thompson and the team of the Diabetic Day Centre I included the insulin injections and constant blood monitoring in to my daily routines. After weeks of sitting out training I was delighted to finally get back out training with the team (even if it was at 6am in the morning and the freezing cold conditions of winter) because I knew it would help me control my insulin requirements and overall health.
These last 20 months have seen some up and down moments but wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve trained hard in the gym and on the pitch trying to push myself further and further and become as best as I can. There have been times when I felt tired and weak, shaken and lightheaded all signs that something is wrong but I didn’t allow it to fester on too long without learning from it. Mistakes happen and we have to learn from them is certainly a mantra I try stick to. That’s what I’ve tried to do each time something doesn’t go how I had planned.
At present I am training very hard with the Dublin senior team as we face in to this weekend’s All-Ireland Semi-Final against Kerry. I am pushing hard to get game time but we have a wonderful squad so competition is exceptionally tough. While it is a different feeling to 2011 when I was on the starting 15 to now being a sub I still remind myself what an honour it is to be in my position and representing the county. To be doing it while managing my diabetes I hope brings inspiration to many other kids who love sport and GAA as much as I do.
Here’s hoping for another Celtic Cross medal (although know there are many of you who are hoping the Dubs don’t win again!!) to add to my collection and I look forward to continuing to work with Diabetes Ireland in the future.
All the best