John leads Ireland to emotional victory

Tallanstown man John Brennan helped the Ireland Soccer Transplant Team to an historic victory over the Northern Irish Transplant team last Saturday in the AUL complex in Clonshaugh, Dublin. It was an emotional day for all involved as Ireland played their first ever international match with all players thinking of the people who donated their organs ahead of the game.

John, who lives in Tallanstown with his wife Claire and their children Lauren and Shaun, was born with a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. John was diagnosed at the age of twelve with a defective gene in his heart meaning it didn’t stop growing. The talented soccer and GAA player was told by doctors that he could no longer play sport and at the age of just twenty he was forced to stop playing with both Na Piarsaigh and Glenmuir Utd.

By the time he received a heart transplant in 2018 it had grown to twice the size it should have been. Since receiving his new heart John has been busy getting his coaching badges and just before Covid hit John was part of a group of players who decided to form a national team ahead of a World Cup that was due to take place in Italy in 2020.

Unfortunately Covid put a temporary halt to their plans but in recent months the side made up of players who have had heart transplants, lung transplants, liver transplants and kidney transplants began training again in recent months under the guidance of John Brennan and Lar Brennan who approached the Irish Kidney Association to put themselves forward to coach the Irish side. John also plans to play with the Irish team but was unavailable for selction last Saturday due to a minor illness. Training takes place every second week in Portlaoise which acts as a central hub for players who live all over the country. According to John the game on Saturday was a hugely emotional moment for both sets of players on the pitch and with that first historic game done and dusted the focus will now turn to next summers British Transplant Games in Coventry.

“Today was a very special day for all of us. It was so much more than just a football match for everybody. Saturday was a celebration of life and a celebration of the people who helped give us a second chance. Not everybody gets a second chance and many die waiting for a transplant so with that in mind we were all emotional before the match. Prior to the game we held a minutes silence for two former members of the Irish team Shane Ryan and Luke Doherty who were sadly missed, and it also gave the players time to reflect on their own donors.

“We got together a couple of years ago with a dream of forming a team and representing our country playing the game we love. We have players of all ages from lads in their early twenty’s to fellas in their fifties. They are a great bunch of lads and it was a proud moment for me to be able to manage them in our first ever international game. We won the game on penalties but as I said the result was secondary today. We will get back to training now soon and we are in the process of organising more games over the next few months as we prepare for the British Transplant Games which take place in Coventry next July. We’ve already had interest from the likes of France and Holland looking to play us and we plan on traveling to Wales in February for a match all going well,” revealed John.

“This is hopefully going to grow and grow and we are proud and delighted that we have our first game over us now. It was an historic day and we look forward to creating many great memories over the coming years,” he added.

There was a second local connection on Saturday with Dundalk man Andrew Gallagher coming on as a sub for the Irish team. Andrew had a liver transplant back in 2013 after his mother in law donated a kidney to him.

Team Ireland will be back training again in the coming weeks and if interested in joining the team they are always looking for new members, if interested please contact John Brennan (086)3884850 or Lar Brennan (085)7222155 for more information.

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