Former Roscommon goalkeeper and transplant recipient promotes Life Affirming Run for A Life

May 20, 2022

Left to right: Clann na nGael goalkeeper Phelim O'Neill from Athlone, Co Roscommon (kidney transplant 26 years ago); Cathy Smyth from Coosan, Athlone (kidney transplant 8 years ago); Tomas Caffrey (age 22), from Holycross, Tipperary (Liver transplant in 2020); and Denise Geoghegan from Mountmellick, Co Laois (heart transplant in 2020).

Four transplant recipients, together with family and friends, gathered at the scenic Burgess Park in Athlone, on the banks of the River Shannon, for a photocall to highlight the Irish Kidney Association’s third virtual Run for a Life (, a family fun run which will take place between the 21st and 28th May. 

This year a 7x7 Challenge has been introduced to the Run for a Life event to shine a light on the profound life affirming act of organ donation and that 1 Organ Donor can Save 7 Lives.

One grateful kidney transplant recipient happy to take part in the photocall, flanked by his family, was Phelim O’Neill  from Roscommon and Cathy Smyth from Coosan, Athlone, Co Westmeath. Phelim, formerly a Goalkeeper with Clann na nGael and who also played for Roscommon, was accompanied by his wife Tracy and their two-and-a-half-year-old twins Cára and Ken.

Phelim is enjoying good health because of the kidney transplant he received from a deceased donor 26 years ago at Beaumont Hospital. 

In the following years he got to know Tracy, who worked at the pharmacy where he got his anti-rejection medication. 

Speaking about why he was helping promote the event, Phelim O'Neill  said, "I'm supporting the Irish Kidney Association's Run for a Life because I got a good run at life thanks to my donor. I think of my donor every day. For the past 26 years every year on my birthday in  January, I remember my donor who gave me the gift of life on the day of my 22nd birthday. 

"Since then I have enjoyed good health, met and got married to Tracy and we are now blessed with twins, Ken and Cára. I'm still passionate about GAA and although not playing for my club Clann na nGael anymore I enjoy coaching underage. I was delighted that the club came behind an initiative to promote organ donation on training jerseys and I ensured that my twins got theirs also." 

Cathy Smyth is enjoying the successful kidney transplant she received 8 years ago (also from a deceased donor).

Cathy suffered kidney failure after the birth of her son Donnacha ten years ago. Cathy’s husband Ger Harrison and Donnacha joined her at the photocall.

Promoting the event also was nine-year-old Caeden Geoghegan with his mother Denise Geoghegan (41) from Mountmellick, Co Laois who, following two false calls, received her lifesaving heart transplant at the Mater Hospital in Dublin in 2020. Denise’s friends Karen Ravenhill from Tullamore, Co Offaly and Claire Gillespie from Lecarrow, Co Roscommon showed up for the photocall and will be among seven friends taking part in Run for a Life.

Joining them was 22-year-old liver transplant recipient Tomas Caffrey from Holycross, in Co Tipperary who has just completed his 3rd level education at the Institute of Technology in Athlone where he now works. Like Denise, Tomas also underwent his transplant in 2020 during the global pandemic, in the liver transplant unit at St. Vincent’s University Hospital.

Speaking about Run for a Life, Colin White, National Advocacy & Projects Manager for the Irish Kidney Association said, “The Run for a Life event is a fun way for people of all ages and levels of fitness to come together (virtually) in solidarity around the need to raise awareness of the importance, and success, of organ donation for transplantation. It is also about raising funds to support the work we do.

Waiting for a transplant is an uncertain time and events like this are about letting those on the transplant pool, and their families, know that they are not alone. Every person who gets an Organ Donor Card and shares their wishes with their family is giving hope to those who are waiting for ‘the call’.

We encourage people from all around Ireland and beyond to take part in this fun and life affirming event and to post their photos on social media, using #RFAL2022 ”.

Registration is €10 per person (or €25 for a family of two adults and up to two children) and people can choose to Run, Jog or Walk 2.5km, 5km or 10km once or as many times as they like between Saturday, 21st and Saturday, 28th May. To heighten awareness that one organ donor can save seven lives, the Run for a Life 7x7 Challenge offers a discounted rate of €7 per person for groups of 7 and a free t-shirt for everyone who get sponsorship of €7 or more each from seven people.

To register log on to To fundraise online and personalise an individual or group page through the Just Giving platform

Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to keep the reminders of their decision available by carrying the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licence or having the free ‘digital organ donor card’ App on their smartphone. Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the IKA website or to your phone, phoning the 

Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050

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