Cycle for Life set for 2015 return
In September 2011, Dublin faced Galway in the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship final in Croke Park. While the result is something that would understandably preoccupy many of the promising hurlers on the pitch, the day represented a matter of pride for the families of the players, the clubs with whom the minors had grafted their trades and the counties themselves. Having the best young hurlers on show on the biggest hurling day of year is something that characterises a bright future, a safety net of sorts. To think that any of the players on the pitch that day could possibly encounter an extremely serious health scare any time soon would be borderline unthinkable.
Cormac Ryan, who is now about to enter his third year of Athletic Therapy and Training at Dublin City University, was between the sticks for the Dublin minors on that day. Galway’s nine-point victory was undoubtedly a huge disappointment on perhaps the biggest day of his sporting life up to that point, but what came in the following months was about to put that defeat into perspective.
As he collected himself after an All-Ireland final loss, Cormac was to receive a number of health warnings; a collapse while playing with his club Whitehall Colmcille was shrugged off as a symptom of asthma before an experience of constant tiredness in everyday life and severe chest pains when training began for the 2012 season finally prompted a visit to Beaumont hospital.
“My Dad knew this was different to any issue I had with asthma in the past and was worried that it might be cardiac. My Dad spoke to the specialists and really pushed for tests to be done on my heart. I think they did the tests more to appease him, but they thought nothing would come of it. God only knows what would have happened if it wasn’t for Dad’s persistence” the Whitehall student told GAA.ie in 2012.
Cormac’s father’s suspicions were very well-founded and perhaps a life-saver. Hospital tests revealed that Cormac was often going into heart block, whereby his heart would stop at regular intervals – sometimes for more than five seconds – totally unbeknownst to himself. It explained the breathlessness, chest pains and chronic fatigue that the student had been experiencing.
Not only is Cormac thankful for acting before it was too late, but he has also managed to get back on the playing field in the meantime, having a pacemaker specially fitted behind muscle in his chest. Being in a low contact area of the pitch as a goalkeeper also helped his case made to medical staff and he has since made the return to inter-county hurling, being a fixture of the Dublin under-21 squad for the past two seasons.
However, Cormac wasn’t just going to count his blessings and move on. The DCU student has since been spreading awareness of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) on a national scale through his setting-up of the ‘Cycle for Life’ initiative.
Cycle for Life was launched in 2013 with Cormac and four others completing a 1,100km cycle around the coastline of Ireland in aid of the Irish Heart Foundation, Cardiac Risk in the Young and the Cormac Trust. The event was a resounding success with €35,000 raised for the charities and a huge increase in awareness of the dangers posed by undetected heart conditions.
Next year, the Cycle for Life initiative will return and is open for anyone to take part in. Over the course of 10 days, starting on the July 31st 2015, the cyclists will pass through all 32 counties in the country, covering approximately 150km each day.
Fittingly, the first stop in the cycle will be Eglish, County Tyrone; the hometown of the late Cormac McAnallen. While it is 11 months until the cycle, people are already beginning to sign up to the awareness cycle with half of those pledging participation so far being DCU students.
For more information, you can visit the Cycle for Life Facebook and Twitter pages.