SPORTING clubs across Limerick are rallying behind a well-known hurler who is awaiting a liver transplant after being diagnosed with cancer.
Stephen O’Halloran – who played both minor and U21 hurling for Limerick and has been a star player on the Bruree hurling team over the past two decades – was diagnosed with the disease after a spot was discovered on his liver.
Despite his diagnosis, the 36-year-old lined out for Bruree against Murroe-Boher in the half-back position in the third round of the county championship on August 2.
“He started and he finished it,” said his good friend, Seamus O’Connell, this week. “We felt at the time that he mightn’t be able to play the whole match but he said to us during the game that he was fine and he wanted to continue and he would finish the match out.”
Since news of his illness first emerged, communities and sporting clubs across the county have been offering their support to the popular sports star.
A benefit night in aid of Stephen - a native of Howardstown, Bruree who now lives in Bulgaden - will take place Friday, October 11 in Bulgaden Castle outside Kilmallock. Already close on 700 tickets have been snapped for the fundraiser.
“He was always a great competitor on the hurling field - he is the last person to give in to anything. He is a fighter. In the last minute of a match, he is a fella you would want on your side. He is a guy who wouldn’t let you down and he is going to win this battle,” Seamus continued.
Concerns were first raised about Stephen’s well-being after he lost a noticeable amount of weight over a short period of time.
“He started losing weight three to four months ago,” Seamus explained.
“He was training with us in senior hurling with Bruree and because we were looking at him every day of the week, we didn’t notice him losing the weight – we thought that he was getting fit. But he lost nearly two and a half stone in two months.
“He’s not a big drinker, he doesn’t smoke. He did find himself a bit more tired but he was eating as good as any man – he couldn’t figure out how he was losing all this weight.”
Stephen consulted his doctor. He was sent for blood tests and the cancer was detected.
He attended St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin for further checks.
While initially his doctors thought that the removal of part of the liver would suffice, following further investigation they established that a liver transplant was necessary.
“He is lucky that the organs surrounding it haven’t been affected,” said Seamus.
The father-of-one who is married to Marie O’Donnell from Kilmallock is now on a transplant waiting list at St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin and is undergoing chemotherapy.
“He is in great form,” said Seamus. “He is out and about meeting people. The worst thing you can do is sit at home and worry about it. He is going to the matches.”
Seamus and Stephen have been the best of friends since they first started playing senior hurling together for Bruree in 1993.
“He has played in every position on the field in Bruree,” Seamus noted.
“He played minor and U21 for Limerick, and he played Harty Cup with Charleville CBS.
“He was only 17 when he played against Kilmallock in the 1994 county final.”
One of Stephen’s proudest moments came earlier this summer when he lined out with his son, Ronan,16, against Hospital-Herbertstown in the south championship. It was Ronan’s senior hurling debut for Bruree.
Stephen - who previously worked for Dell - has also played soccer for Rockhill Rovers, Kilmallock Utd, Charleville, Breska Rovers and Trinity Rangers.
Tickets for the fundraiser on October 11 are available from members of Bruree GAA club, family and friends, and pubs in Kilmallock, Bruree and Bulgaden Castle.
Admission is by ticket only and the early purchase of tickets is advisable.
Tickets are priced at €10. Doors open at 9pm. Music will be by Handipak, Smoking Criminals, Tony Connery and DJ JP. Every ticket will be entered into a draw for a limousine bull.
“Those attending are being encouraged to wear their club colours on the night whether it’s GAA or soccer,” said Seamus.
For further information contact Seamus on 087 2573821 or John O’Halloran on 087 0516192.