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Hurler’s family calls for more cardiac screening in sport

The family of Tipperary hurler Dillon Quirke, who died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome two years ago, are calling for more widespread cardiac screening to ensure other families avoid a similar tragedy.

Dillon was 24 when he collapsed and died on 5 August 2022 in Semple Stadium, Thurles, while captaining his club, Clonoulty/Rossmore, in a championship match against Kilruane McDonaghs.

Dillon’s father, Dan Quirke, said they were unaware of the condition at the time and of how many heart conditions can go undetected.

He said they researched it and consequently set up the Dillon Quirke Foundation in honour of Dillon and also to raise awareness around SADS.

The foundation was officially launched at an event in Dublin this morning, with former Republic of Ireland footballer Niall Quinn named as board chair.

He said the foundation had already raised €1.3 million and screening has so far been rolled out to 1,200 young people in community centres, GAA clubs and schools.

He said they plan to have 10,000 young people screened for heart conditions by the end of this year.

Dan Quirke said while his family are living a nightmare since Dillon’s death, they want to help other families avoid the tragedy they are going through.

Niall Quinn speaking at the launch of the Dillon Quirke Foundation

He said as well as being a top class hurler, Dillon was a charming, fun loving rogue who would be very proud of what is being done now to help other young athletes.

The issue of sudden cardiac death among young people has become more widely known in recent years due to the death of some high-profile sports people and young players like Dillon.

Some young players who had cardiac abnormalities identified through cardiac screening spoke at the event of the benefit of taking steps to prevent serious consequences.

Mayo footballer Saoirse Lally said recent screening of her team led to her having surgery to resolve heart issues three weeks ago and she is now back at training and on the pitch.

She encouraged others to be aware of the risks that can go undetected without this type of screening.

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Dan Quirke is hopeful that Ireland will eventually get to a stage where it is standard practice that every young athlete is screened.

Mr Quinn said it is about getting screening “into every sport” and said he hopes the Government will heed their calls on this.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Tánaiste Micheál Martin acknowledged the importance of free screening becoming widely available eventually as he said more people are participating in high intensity sports and there is “quite a number of examples” where the absence of screening can be very serious.

Micheál Martin pictured with Mayo footballer Saoirse Lally and Dan Quirke

He said he will be in discussions with others to see how “we can advance this”.

AMS Director Dr Alan Byrne said cardiac screening can detect many issues and it is a simple process.

He said consent is important with screening and it may show something that requires further investigation.

“At the end of the day it it saves your life”, he said.

Galway hurling manager Henry Shefflin, who is also part of the Dillon Quirke Foundation, spoke of the devastation of losing his brother Paul to sudden death.

He said as a GAA manager there is lots of talk about concussion and he is keen to see more awareness around SADS also.

He said sport is about enjoyment and he is truly honoured to be part of the foundation..

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