BY RYAN FERRY
KIERAN Murray returned to a hero’s welcome in Ramelton after he captured three medals at the World Transplant Games in Argentina in August.
Murray claimed gold in both the 5km and 1,500 metres events in the 30-39 age bracket, while he won bronze in the 800 metres.
It was a remarkable achievement which barely seemed plausible just two years ago.
Kieran received a kidney transplant when he was only 20 years of age. However, seven years later he was told that his kidney function was failing.
He managed to stave off dialysis treatment for five years, but in May 2013 after 13 months of haemodialysis treatment at Letterkenny General Hospital, he received his second transplant.
Thankfully for him, it proved to be a success and a chance conversation with a classmate at LYIT a couple of months later, sent his life down a new direction.
“I was just talking to a friend of mine Seamie McDermott in college and he said he was going to the European Transplant Games,” Kieran explained.
“I said I would help him with sponsorship or raising money, and he just said ‘Well why don’t you come with me?”
Kieran thought about the proposal and decided to investigate it further by meeting the Ireland manager, Colin White.
“I went down to Dublin in December 2013 to meet Colin and he said they needed me to compete in a few different events.
“I had played a bit of golf before and agreed to do that and the 5km as well.
“Being Irish, I didn’t want to spoil my Christmas, so I said I would start training in January. I did my first 5km in March in a time of 25.21 and I was delighted with that.
“Colin was impressed and he then put me down for the 1500m, and when I did my second 5km in 21:54, he put me down for the 800m as well.
“I also went as one of the subs for the 100 metres replay, but ended up competing as I was one of the quickest there.”
Kieran joined Milford AC and they helped him to prepare for the European Transport Games in Krakow, Poland.He surprised himself by winning three golds and a bronze at the games and was encouraged by his trip.
It whetted his appetite for competition and he continued to train hard with the running group in Milford.
He knew the World Transport Games were in Argentina, but he felt that trip would be too expensive so he zoned in on the British Championships in Newcastle.
However, Colin White was not happy with that and he told Kieran that he needed his best athletes in Argentina. His family and friends also encouraged him to go for it.
“I thought Argentina was a bit far away and might be very expensive. But the people down at Milford AC said to me to go for it and they would help with the sponsorship.
“They just said that I was as fit as I ever had been, and that if I put it off I might get sick, or lose form, or get injured and you might not get a chance like it again.
“I held a table quiz in Durkan’s Bar in Ramelton, and I handed out sponsorship cards too which a number of my clubmates sold, and that was a huge help.”
Just attending the games was not going to suffice – Kieran wanted to be competing for medals. He was pushed hard by his coach and his fellow runners and he soon saw his times dropping.
“James Gibbons is the coach in Milford and he was a big help. Hugh Coll, Seamus Ferry and Anthony Doherty were of huge assistance too.
“Anthony would run 5kms in 17 minutes, and he would drop back to push me on that bit harder.
“I made a big improvement over the year from Poland to Argentina. I knew that the winning time in the 5km at the worlds in South Africa two years ago was 19.39 and my target was to get into the low 19s.
“I ran 19.07 in a 5km in Ramelton before I left, so I knew I wasn’t far away and I would have been happy with a similar time in Argentina.
“I ran the 5km over there in 18.13, which was a personal best and more than two minutes better than the time I had run in Krakow.”
The 35-year-old went on to add another gold medal in the 1500m, while he got a podium finish in the 800m.
Kieran was joined by three other Irish athletes in South America, and together they brought a haul of 13 medals back to the country.
Next year, the team will take part in the biennial European Transplant & Dialysis Games which will be held in Helsinki, Finland and Kieran is planning on being part of the team.
“Finland is next on my agenda. I took last week off and I’ll just keep my fitness up until the start of the new year.
“I’ll lift it then to get ready for the half-marathon in Omagh in March. That’s the same routine I had this year and I’ll go with the same again.”
Kieran is keen to stress the importance of organ donation, and he is fortunate that his second transplant has given him so much more energy to spend with his three daughters – Chloe, Grace, and Sophie – and his wife, Olivia.
“It has definitely made a huge difference to my life. I was hardly able to run 50 metres before and now I can do so much more – simple things like playing with the kids.
“It has given me a new lease of life and I feel so much better, both physically and mentally.”