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Hurler Cahalane recalls ‘shock’ of heart diagnosis

May 17th, 2024 11:00 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Hurler Cahalane recalls ‘shock’ of heart diagnosis Image
Michael (right) with Dan Quirke (left) at the foundation launch.

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IT was only when he noticed he was having trouble breathing day-to-day that former Cork hurler Michael Cahalane knew something just didn’t fit right.

And it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the then 18-year-old Bandon hurler as he had joined the Cork senior hurling panel and was looking forward to representing his county in the sport.

However, a detected cardiac condition called a halt to his hurling dreams for a period.

Michael recently attended the launch of a new charity, the Dillion Quirke Foundation, which has been set up to reduce the number of deaths from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (Sads).

The foundation was set up by the Quirke family in memory of Dillion, a Tipperary hurler, who collapsed and died during a hurling match at Semple Stadium in Thurles in August 2022.

On average, 100 young people die in Ireland because of Sads but many of these deaths could be prevented by identifying heart conditions at an early stage through cardiac screening.

Speaking to The Southern Star, Michael said the foundation is doing amazing work by encouraging nationwide cardiac screenings for under 18s.

‘In 2014, I was diagnosed with an enlargement of the muscle of my heart and there was the danger that without taking rest and medication, I could be susceptible to a cardiac arrest at the time,’ said Michael.

Michael was in Leaving Cert at the time and had just joined the Cork senior hurling panel, so the future looked bright for him.

‘But I was having trouble breathing, even when I would go for a walk and I would have to take deep breaths – it was concerning.

‘I was sent to a lung doctor and they thought I might have had asthma. I was given inhalers but they also did a few tests on me. My own doctor then referred me to a cardiologist for a heart check and then of course it showed up.’

Michael said he was ‘absolutely shocked’ by the discovery.

‘I was heartbroken as sport is what I love and especially GAA, and being called up to the Cork senior hurlers is a dream come true, so it was very disappointing.’

Having played a few league games with Cork, it all came to a sudden halt for the talented hurler.

‘I was being told that there was a good chance I could never play sport at a professional level again, because high intensity training could lead to Sads. They tested my whole family just to check and they were all ok.’

As time went on and as he was put through many tests, it seemed to be improving and normalising.

‘It was a case of resting and taking the medication and almost two-and-a-half years later I got the go-ahead to go back playing, which was fantastic.’

Michael managed to get back onto the Cork panel in 2017 and went on to win two Munster hurling crowns.

‘I’m 28 now and it’s nearly 10 years on since it was picked up. When you hear stories like what happened to Dillon Quirke, it really puts things in perspective. This foundation is super and it’s a great idea to roll out screenings to as many clubs as possible and educate young players about Sads.’

The Dillon Quirke Foundation, through a partnership with online medical services, Advanced Medical Serviced (AMS)  plans to screen at least 10,000 young people aged 12 to 18 this year, with an initial focus on those who play GAA, soccer, and rugby.

It has already provided screenings to more than 1,200 young competitors as part of a pilot programme in recent months and screened over 1,300 by the end of the April.

The Dillon Quirke Foundation is also calling on the Government to provide free cardiac screening for all young people.

They hope that another one of Dillon’s legacies will be that cardiac screening is a requirement for all underage players, within five years.

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