‘I am half the man I was this time last year’

By Dionne Meehan

A MILFORD man who underwent gastric sleeve surgery almost one year ago is marking his life-changing weight-loss by entering his first triathlon.

Weighing in at 25 stone this time last year, Shaun T Friel said he wasn’t really living, he was just getting by.


At his wits end, Shaun, who works as a barber in Letterkenny, decided to fly to Turkey to undergo gastric sleeve surgery in May 2023.

Gastric sleeve surgery is a surgical weight-loss procedure in which approximately 75-85 per cent of the stomach is removed leaving a cylindrical or ‘sleeve’-shaped stomach the size of a banana.

“Absolutely petrified” on the run up to the procedure, Shaun was immediately put at ease once he met with consultants.

Just one of many undergoing the procedure that day, the father of two said the process was like being on a “conveyor belt”.

“Surgery only took around 30 minutes,” he said.

“There were six of us and within a couple of hours they had the six of us done.

“It is very efficient,” he said.


Shaun returned to work just eight days after his operation.

“Healing wise I had no issues, recovery was easy,” he said.

Faced with massive changes to his diet, for the first two weeks Shaun was only allowed to drink water and protein shakes.

“Everything after it is very much protein based, even your diet after it,” he said.

Now half the man he was this time last year, Shaun has lost over 12 stone.

Describing the loss as “absolutely crazy”, Shaun said he is probably lighter now than he was when he started secondary school.

“I have just so much more energy, especially with the two kids.

“My quality of life has just changed,” he said.

Struggling to exercise this time last year, Shaun is now planning to celebrate one year since his operation by participating in the Letterkenny Triathlon Club’s ‘Try a Tri’.

Aimed at beginners, ‘Try-a-Tri’ is a pool-based race taking place on the flattest course of any race in Donegal.

The race includes a 200m pool swim (8 lengths), 13km cycle and a 3.2km flat run.

The emphasis is on fun and inclusiveness, allowing anyone who wishes to dip their toes into the world of triathlon a fantastic opportunity to do so in a welcoming, safe and controlled environment.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland