A LIMERICK woman was crowned the world stone-throwing champion for the fourth and fifth time – despite undergoing chemotherapy.
Mum of two, Sinead Dinneen, from Murroe, was diagnosed with stage-four ovarian cancer in September 2013. The resulting chemo didn’t stop her lifting the title in 2014 and 2015.
Stone-throwing is an old Irish tradition that is kept alive every year in Corofin. Through her father Dan, Sinead fell in love with the sport and is a dab hand at it.
“I played rounders when I was kid. I was on the Murroe team. My dad helped set up a girls team because the boys had hurling, soccer, football. From coaching and playing we all became very skilled at throwing and catching,” said Sinead, who is aged in her early forties.
And throwing accurately is the key to her success. The women stand over four metres back from a wine or spirit bottle placed upside down on a pipe – the men are further away. The aim is to smash the bottle. “It is all about distance and accuracy. You need to pick your stones right – you need to be at one with your stone,” smiles Sinead.
The world stone-throwing championships take place every May at Campbell’s Yard in Corofin.
“It is a bit like being in a Father Ted scene. It is a little surreal – there is a guy on the mic, it’s a yard that was a farm at one stage, a big gate separates the crowd from the throwers, there are no airs and graces,” said Sinead.
Again it was her father who introduced her to it.
“He is very active in the Murroe community. He heard about it on Clare FM and became very interested. When he was picking stones as a boy he was throwing stones. He wanted to find an innovative way of making money for Murroe Community Council and Tidy Towns so he said he would go to scope it out and I went too. We fell in love with the committee, the group and the spirit. I ended up coming away with the cup – he made it to the finals – and that was in 2000,” said Sinead, who is married to Damian. The couple have two boys – Isaac, aged three, and Daniel, five.
Sinead came back every year and went on to win again in 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2015. A cancer diagnosis in September 2013 wasn’t going to stop her competing in 2014 and 2015. “Last year was so special because I told them I was undergoing treatment. There was a lot of love and respect – they were delighted I did come after I got diagnosed in 2013. They even had a bed for me if I wanted a nap. I was just off the very big chemo so my aim was to get to stone throwing by hell or high water – I really wanted to do it. You just want to continue a normal life and stone throwing is part of my life,” said Sinead, who remains on maintenance chemo.
“It isn’t as harsh as the big ones. At the start it can be very heavy, losing the hair, you feel very ill and nautious. A lot of that is gone which is great.”
Approximately 300 women get diagnosed every year in Ireland with ovarian cancer.
“They call it the silent killer. The symptoms are unfortunately very hard to diagnose. At the beginning of 2013 I generally felt unwell and then had continuos pain in my right hand side of the tummy. It could be weight loss or weight gain – it is so sneaky. If you are a busy working mum or person you don’t notice if you use the loo a bit more.
“I would be training for different things so I thought it was general aches or pains from that. I went in for another procedure – they thought it was a gall bladder issue. By the time they do find it, it is normally in the later stages. I am technically stage 4 ovarian cancer which is the later stage - you would love to get a one or two.”
There is no cure, as such, but it doesn’t mean you cant live with it for the rest of your life, said Sinead.
“You hear people who haven’t been so lucky with it and you hear of people 20 years on with it. I am back full-time working, I’m a visual artist. I’m doing some maintenance and hopefully I will be finished it at the end of this year all going well. There were times when it wasn’t fun but it makes you think about the bigger issues in life and also makes you think about death. The more you think about it and the more you talk about it the more accepting you become. I’m not terminal at the moment but it will happen at some stage. It makes me think about death in a very natural way and it is a very natural thing.”
Sinead has brought her cancer diagnosis into her work and displayed it in an exhibition entitled The Plane Invasion, which has just ended in the Limerick School of Art and Design.
“I am a member of Limerick Printmakers and my art work currently deals with issues around struggle, diagnosis, chronic illness, cancer, loss, the female form.” See sineaddinneenvisualartist.tumblr.com/ for more
By sheer coincidence the Leader spoke to Sinead on May 8, which was Ovarian Cancer Awareness Day. The Irish support community of ovarian cancer is OvaCare - www.ovacare.com