I'm a sports journalist based in county Meath, Ireland. I have a passion for all sport, the people behind it and the stories they have to tell. You can find me on the sidelines, end terraces or a parade ring near you!
It’s a scary thought to think that it only took one bite from a Tick to change my life forever.
“Six years ago I didn’t know that my life was about to turn upside down forever. I had just moved to Rathcoffey from Kilcock so I was very busy. I decided to take a break from unpacking and went out for a bike ride with my son Scott. I felt fine apart from feeling very tired but I just put it down to the stress of moving. We stopped at Donadea Forest entrance and sat on the wall to take a break. Scott was looking at me saying I was a funny colour. I just laughed at him. When we got home I was starting to feel worse. By then I had a bad headache, was feeling so tired and had a pins and needles feeling all up along my left side. We put it down to stress and I headed to bed early.
When I woke the next morning I immediately shouted for Scott, I thought I was having a stroke because the left side of my face didn’t feel right. I went to Connolly hospital and they said is was a virus and to go home and rest. Two weeks went by and by now I lost all feeling in my left leg and I continued to have pins and needles from my hip upwards.
I was taken back into hospital and this time I was kept. Doctors tested me for so many things. I had my first lumbar puncture done as they thought it was MS but they later found out it wasn’t. I was sent home. Still unwell.
I was told I was on a waiting list to see a neurologist ( 6 years on and I’m still waiting for that appointment). My family took me to a private neurologist and after asking about my lifestyle before been sick, he looked at my history and had a look at all my tests. It was this doctor that told me to get tested for Lyme Disease.
I got tested by my GP and three weeks later, just before Christmas, I was told my test for Lyme Disease came back as a strong positive and that I would have to have a second lumbar puncture.
After Christmas I attended St James Hospital, where any treatment I received, failed to work. I was getting worse and there was nothing I could do about it. I then found my Lyme Disease doctor in The Mater Private. Every 4-5 weeks I would replace with pain and muscle spasms so bad it was bruising my body all over.
Following treatment to my new doctor for seven months he gave me the advice to look into treatment abroad. By now I had so many health problems like hearing loss in both ears, fatigue, breathing problems, stomach problems, just to name a few. By this stage I was depending on leg braces on both my legs due to the loss of feeling on my left leg.
With help of everyone and the amazing community of Kilcock I was able to attend the St Georg Kilinic in Germany for two weeks of intensive treatment. It was so hard, to a point where I begged my mam to bring me home. My mam (Mary O’Brien) wasn’t gonna let me give up, she really was my rock.
After my treatment I was doing so well until two weeks ago. I had a very bad relapse and I ended up in Connolly Hospital once again. I was placed on pain medication (morphine) and once they saw the medication working they sent me home.
I’m in pain every day but with the right pain medication I can get it under control and then manage it. With my back been a big problem now, I have to use a wheelchair but my manual one isn’t going to work for me.
On top of everything now I’m not able to stand for long or walk far. So now I’m fighting to get help to get a power wheelchair. Life with Lyme Disease is so hard and I’ve lost so much because of it. On the bright side its shown me how to be stronger and to never give up. I’m alive, I’m here and get to be with my son, family and friends.
It’s a scary thought to think that it only took one bite from a Tick to change my life forever”
During this COVID Lockdown I have appreciated the great things we have around us. Things like the Royal Canal and the Greenway, Maynooth College South Campus, Connolly’s Folly, Rathcoffey Castle, Dollanstown Stud, the views from Ovidstown Hill, sunsets from Cappagh Hill and many more. At the same time, I cannot wait to get back travelling around the country and there are hundreds of places I still want to visit
“When I was younger, we used to spend weekends and holidays in Mayo. Dad is from South Mayo, where you can see the Partry Mountains and Croagh Patrick as well as a couple of lakes. My Mam is from North Mayo at the bottom of Nephin and looking back towards the Nephin Beg Mountain Range. I used to hate leaving the west to go back home because I had some sort of connection with the scenery.
As the years went on myself and one of my best friends would be always sending each other photos of different places on WhatsApp as we both have an interest in scenery. The odd day we would have ventured off to different places.
The Summer of 2017 was the year I got properly into scenic photography. Myself and my girlfriend Lorna said we would go down and visit my Granny in Mayo. I said I would show her some of the Mayo Coastline and we basically did a big tour from Louisburgh to Achill Island, found out about the Wild Atlantic Way and I took a serious number of photos.
Poor Lorna was getting impatient and couldn’t understand why I would keep stopping the car taking photographs as she wouldn’t have been really into scenery. I think I’ve transformed her and her photo skills have improved dramatically since.
I would get a buzz in life when we won Gaelic football matches with the club or if I was watching Liverpool or Kildare win. But that summer I discovered a new buzz. Coming across places in Ireland, not known to many, but which are some of the most magnificent places on the Island. Some of those places you would have all to yourself. There was something about it that would make my adrenaline pump.
The obsession more or less took off from then. Up to now I’ve travelled the Wild Atlantic Way from Ardara in Co. Donegal all the way down to Kenmare in Co. Kerry, and also another chunk from Baltimore to Kinsale in Co. Cork. I have also travelled around to most counties and last summer I did Inishbofin off the coast of Galway with Marcus Duke and Cormac Daly.
All of this has made me realise there is so much places to see in this country that we would have never heard off. Some of them are absolutely spectacular. I have come across hidden waterfalls in caves, waterfalls that you think you would only see in the Amazon, beaches that have no one on them but wouldn’t look out of place in the Maldives, and windmills like you would see in the Netherlands.
Some days I will just decide to set the alarm early, head off in the car, and Google attractions in the county or area I’m heading to. It’s a great way to shut yourself off from the world.
Due to me clogging up my own Instagram stories, and with a bit of encouragement from a few friends, I decided to bite the bullet and set up an Instagram page displaying photographs of the different places I have travelled. I called it The Irish Galaxy as I take most of my photos on a Samsung Galaxy phone. I post the pictures up with a bit of a background behind each photo to make it interesting for people who want to visit there. I try to post 2 or 3 photos a week.
I also take Instagram stories of everywhere I visit and put them into a highlight with the County it is in. I am delighted with the way the page has been received by everyone and it takes my mind off teaching or football during the year.
Last Christmas I got a camera as a present and I’m hoping to upskill myself and increase the quality of photographs I take in the future.
During this COVID Lockdown I have appreciated the great things we have around us. Things like the Royal Canal and the Greenway, Maynooth College South Campus, Connolly’s Folly, Rathcoffey Castle, Dollanstown Stud, the views from Ovidstown Hill, sunsets from Cappagh Hill and many more. At the same time, I cannot wait to get back travelling around the country and there are hundreds of places I still want to visit.
If you’re looking for a place to travel to in the local area or around the country, check out my travel page and you might get a few ideas” – Mark Durkan
“Live life to the fullest and focus on the positive. Be happy”
“23rd july 1998, just four days after my 19th birthday, it was just another Thursday at work as an apprentice carpenter, or so I thought. Little did I know, in the blink of an eye, my life would be turned upside down and changed forever.
Shortly after lunchtime, as I was working on a roof of a two story house on a building site in Leixlip, the scaffolding gave way from underneath me and I fell, about 24ft.
I’ll never forget trying to grab scaffolding bars mid fall trying to save myself or break my fall, but unlike you see in the movies it’s near impossible. I hit the ground with tremendous force. Unfortunately I landed on a scaffolding plank on its side, I’ll never forget the sound of hearing my back snap and the pain that followed.
Immediately I knew I was in Serious trouble. My legs went all pins and needles and I couldn’t move them. It seemed like an age waiting on the emergency services to arrive, but it probably only took about half an hour. I was rushed straight to the Mater hospital where I underwent a 5 hour operation.
The next day, surrounded by very upset and concerned family members and my girlfriend Rachel, a doctor explained to me that I had sustained a double fractured broken back but more importantly inoperable damage had been done to my spinal cord. I was paralysed from the waist down and I might never walk again.
During the next two weeks in the Mater spinal ward, I was bed bound, you have all day for things to play on your mind, maybe I was in denial but paralysis long term never really crossed my mind. I have always been a very positive guy, I just presumed I was going to make a full recovery and be back on my feet in no time. A specialist from The National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) came to assess me and it was decided that I would be going there in a couple weeks to learn to be independant again.
I must admit before being a patient in the NRH I never even knew it existed, and wow what an amazing place it was. I was surrounded by stroke patients, amputees, paraplegics, quadriplegics, tetraplegics(neck down) and brain injuries….there’s no feeling sorry for yourself there. There is always someone much worse off than you. All the staff from nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists do the most amazing job with one goal in mind, to get the patient back to being as independant and healthy as possible, they are inspirational.
I was still very sick when I arrived at the NRH, I just couldn’t stop vomiting, it was like my body just couldn’t adapt to being paralysed. Kildare won the Leinster final that week and Davey Dalton (Kilcock legend) brought a few of the players in to see me. That visit gave me great encouragement and belief, I stopped getting sick that day and was finally on the road to recovery.
Being put into a wheelchair for the first time, that was very traumatic. It was a strange and scary feeling, I think myself Rachel and the whole family cried for most of that day. A family therapist came to see us and I have to say it was one of the toughest days of my life. I never looked back from that day on, I am a very positive person, I was ready to move forward, that was my only “bad” day.
After I had my back brace removed I worked very hard, learning how to dress myself again, to go to the toilet, building up strength in the physio department each day so that I could push about in the wheelchair. I was determined to make the best of my situation. I even learned how to drive. Spinal Injuries Ireland (SII) set up a driving programme for patients, I signed up and on my first lesson I was out on the busy dublin roads, I nearly had a heart attack.
I had great fun with all the nurses, doctors and staff each day, they filled my days with fun divilment and laughter, you wouldn’t feel like you were in a hospital at all. I got to meet some of the most amazing people, patients who were going through the exact same journey as me. The bonds that you make in hospital are very special, you are there for each other, you become almost family. I guess it’s a bit like War Vets, you have mutual respect for one another and maybe only people who have lived through such a life altering experience can truly understand the other. I’m glad to say I’m still in contact with a few of these very dear friends.
Apart from the amazing support I received during this time from Rachel and my family, I also was blessed with a super network of friends and a very warm community spirit of my home town Kilcock. Nobody once treated me any differently when I returned home in a wheelchair, this made my transition so much easier to just move on with my life and not dwell on the past.
Shortly after my release from NRH myself and Rachel went travelling for a few months,we saw the world, places like Australia and New Zealand, it was a truly amazing experience. Then we settled down, built a house and got married. We have been truly blessed with three amazing kids. I am a stay at home dad and I have to say I love it. It’s the most rewarding job in the world. My kids are everything to me.
Alright I never got power or feeling back in my legs, but I did recover to have a powerful life.
Live life to the fullest and focus on the positive. Be happy” – Lester Cassidy.
“On the way to church all our neighbours were out with flags and banners. It was really, really lovely but very emotional. That certainly wouldn’t have happened if it was just a regular wedding, they’d probably all have been down in the church already”
By Robert Cox
When members of the British Royal Family get married adoring fans line the streets three or four deep, waving their Union Jacks as the wedding cortege passes by and on May 1st 2020 something very similar happened in a little village in North Kildare. The destination was Newtown Church, different country, different roads, different flags, different circumstances, different kind of royalty but royalty nonetheless!
Regina Gorman is a name synonymous with Cappagh GAA and in many people’s eyes she is the Queen of Camogie in the club and as in London when the Queen gets married, the locals lined the roads to wish her well and catch a glimpse of their hero in White. In this case it’s not the first time Regina will have paraded in front of her fans in white, having done so for many years as she lined out for her beloved Kildare, included in that is an All Ireland Final appearance in Croke Park.
A wedding during Lockdown due to the ongoing Covid19 pandemic was always going to be different for many reasons and when Regina Gorman married her partner of four years David Dunne on Saturday May 1st in the beautiful Newtown Church, many things had to be adapted to meet regulations and to adhere to social distancing. But just as Regina had faced challenges aplenty through the years on the Gaa field, she once again faced this one head on, making sure nothing got in the way of her and David’s special day.
The former Scoil Dara Kilcock pair stuck to their initial wedding date despite dodging with the idea of pushing it out until September as Regina explains; “We booked the wedding initially for the 1st of May and when lockdown hit and it looked like it wasn’t going to go ahead, we were going to push it out until September 26th but as time went on and it looked like it wouldn’t be able to go ahead in September either, we sat down and debated over it for what seemed like an eternity, while in fact it was probably only a couple of days. But the 1st of May was our initial date and we just made the decision to stick with it despite the challenges.
It was hard though because in my family alone there are seven children in it and none of my siblings could be there. David only has two sisters though so we decided to have both our parents and his two sisters Elaine and Therese in attendance. One of my brothers is in England and I have a sister in Donegal and one in Wexford so unfortunately none of them could have been there anyway. So we just said that if they all couldn’t go then none of them could go. That was a difficult decision to make. That and not having our close friends there wasn’t easy. David’s groomsmen are both living abroad, one in Australia and one in America so unfortunately they weren’t able to make it either”
Despite these setbacks the pair were determined to go ahead with their day and make the most of it and let there love shine through. “The day itself was lovely. The original plan would have seen me staying in my parents house the night before but obviously we couldn’t do that. Tradition had to play second fiddle during these times and the two of us just stayed here in our home in Kilbrook and David went over to his mother’s the next morning.
My sister came over to my house the morning of and we had a lovely, relaxed time, despite the standard nerves. My sister Breda made my bouquet and I did have a girl come and do my makeup and hair. She adhered to all the guidelines as best she could and wore a mask throughout which was a bit different”
When the time came for Regina to go to the church, she admits it was such a lovely surprise to see all her neighbours and friends stand at their respective gates and wish her well by waving flags and cheering. And with that the Queen of Cappagh was on her way to meet her Prince. “On the way to church all our neighbours were out with flags and banners. It was really, really lovely but very emotional. That certainly wouldn’t have happened if it was just a regular wedding, they’d probably all have been down in the church already!
The church itself was beautiful. Father Paul said the mass and Catherine Nealon, a friend of mine did the singing. She was amazing, it was literally just Catherine singing, no music. She has a gorgeous voice and really added to our day.
David printed out pictures of all my siblings faces and had them sitting in the front row so that was nice to have them there in some shape or form though I have to admit I didn’t notice them sitting there at first when I reached the top of the aisle. He also had his groomsmen Gary and Declan and my bridesmaids Breda, Caroline and Hazel done out as manequins. They were made from planks of wood, with tripods on the bottom. They were even dressed in dresses and suits, it was so funny and a lovely touch. We had the mass broadcast on Zoom so it was nice to know our family and friends could get to see it and were with us”
After a beautiful mass and tying the knot the new Mr and Mrs Dunne, with photographer Darren Byrne in tow, went to the picturesque moate at Cloncurry for some wedding photos but not before they were treated to another surprise; “When we came out of the church the Cappagh girls did a drive by, hanging out of the cars, blowing the horns and cheering, that was very special and a bit emotional. I’ll never forget it and they are such a brilliant bunch of friends and team mates. David’s cousins also did a drive by for us and I could see how much it meant to him. It was just little things like that which added to our day. Darren Byrne was brilliant, he took us up to the moate here in Cloncurry, a spot we really love and he took some pictures.
Thankfully we then got to call out to the garden in my parents house and we got to the same at David’s home. Things got a bit different from there. Instead of heading off to what would have been our wedding reception in Glasson House, we came back to our own house, just the two of us but we had a beautiful evening.
My sisters and David’s had come together to decorate our house for us and had an amazing dinner prepared, so that was special. Once again the internet came to the rescue and we had our reception via Zoom, live from our sitting room”
Despite having to adapt their day to suit lockdown, Regina reflects that she still feels like she got to see and meet people and has no regrets with their decision to go ahead with their special day; “At the end of the day I felt like I’d seen people. I know I hadn’t seen them in person but I didn’t feel like I’d missed out really.
We are delighted we went ahead with it because as I said we did debate over it a bit. When we initially started talking about the wedding, before the days of Covid19, we said we might have a small wedding anyway but that thought didn’t last long. We wanted all our friends and extended families in attendance so we decided on the big Irish wedding. Going back to the small wedding due to restrictions wasn’t easy but we are glad we went ahead with it.
We had our rings and I had my dress and David his suit so atleast we will get two wears out of those! So when this is all over and things get back to a new normal we will have our reception as originally planned in Glasson House. They have been brilliant in accomodating us. We won’t have it unless everyone from abroad can make it, ie my brother and David’s groomsmen. It will be all or nothing when the time comes. We don’t want a cloud hanging over it and people worrying about catching the virus or social distancing. Even if we have to wait a year or two, we will, just to do it right. If that means waiting until there is a vaccine then so be it. I don’t think social distancing will work at a big Irish wedding”
At the time of going to post, the newly weds should be sunning themselves on their dream honeymoon to South Africa and Dubai as they had been set to jet off on the 14th of May and this Regina explains is one of the big disappointments; “I’m really disappointed about the honeymoon to be honest. The wedding I am fine about because we are married now and of course I am delighted we did it and we had great craic on the day.
Regarding the honeymoon we were meant to be gone for the guts of a month. I don’t know what will happen with that now. I am kind of holding out hope that we can maybe go in January 2021 but honsely I am not sure. We also had other trips planned for later in the year and we’ve had to pen those for now also”
One thing is for sure the couple, who met on October 2016 on a random night out, will face all these challenges together and their love for each other will win out as they start their married life during uncertain times across the world.
Regina, who lined out for years in the white of Kildare is well used to taking on whatever life throws at her having suffered the heart break of missing out on an All-Ireland Junior Camogie Final success with Kildare due to a long term injury in 2013, though she was still involved as a selector for the year. The versatile player, who made her debut for the Lilys in 1999, was involved in a League and All-Ireland Junior A Championship success in her time in white but the blow of not getting to win an All-Ireland on the hallowed turf of Croke Park in 2013 was a bitter pill to swallow. She would later get to grace the Croke Park field at centre back in the 2015 Intermediate final against Waterford but it was The Deise who won out on the day by 2-09 to 1-05.
“I made my Kildare debut in 1999 and retired in 2016, taking two years out to travel in between. Obviously there was the odd injury too, most notably in 2013 when I missed the All-Ireland Premier Junior success. That was hard to take but I was delighted for the girls and was still glad to be a part of it as a selector for the year. There was also a good few of my team mates from Cappagh involved so that was extra special. I had some great days in the white of Kildare and have made some great friends along the way.
I’m still plugging away with Cappagh, club is where it all starts and to say I love Cappagh would be an understatement. My best friends are all Cappagh girls and though we didn’t win much through the years, we had some great times and managed to compete at the top table in Kildare for the majority. Last year was special, we won the Kildare Intermediate Championship and though once again I was injured, I managed to get onto the field in the final late on. That was a great day. I’m looking forward to getting back on the field when things return. Gaa wise it’s hard to tell when that will be”
At the outset we mentioned how Regina was Cappagh Royalty and nowhere was this more evident than when she made a substitute appearance near the end of last year’s final success against neighbours Kilcock. The roar from the Cappagh faithful as she entered the fray was deafening and lit up a wet and dull day in Rathcoffey. It was at that moment we all realised the regard in which Regina is held in Newtown and its surrounding areas.
Those same fans were once again to the fore on the 1st of May 2020 as the Queen of Cappagh made her way to her local church in Newtown to marry her Prince David and as they begin married life together, one thing is for sure they will not let lockdown, honeymoon cancellations, injuries or pandemics get in the way of their love for life and for one another.
Their friends may have been as much fun as a plank of wood on their wedding day but atleast they had each other!
“To be honest it’s hard thinking that on May the 5th I should be standing with all my Kildare team mates listening to the national anthem ahead of our Leinster Championship game. Instead I’ll be at home looking at the news. It breaks my heart.
Obviously it’s heart breaking about the Leinster Minor Championship, I spent the last few years of my life building up to it and then to get it taken away from you, it’s hard to take.
I do think there will be some competition for county later in the year but whenever that is I don’t know but I have to stay positive and hope there will be. I also like to think that we might get some club action later in the year also.
I am realistic though and know that there are other things more important in life and you have to think that things always could be a lot worse. At the end of the day football will still be waiting on the other side of this so that’s good thought to have”