Outspoken GAA pundit Joe Brolly has joked that a fellow Gaelic sports coach now has the “the Taj Mahal of kidneys” after he donated an organ to his friend.
Brolly may be recovering in a London hospital after donating a kidney to Shane Finnegan — but the former Derry player seems to have everyone else in stitches.
Joe (42), who won a medal playing for the All-Ireland winning Derry team of 1993, and Shane Finnegan (40) met last year when they were both under-10s coaches at St Brigid’s GAA Club in Belfast.
Shane, who works at PR firm Aiken and is married with three children, had been receiving dialysis three nights a week for the past six years.
He said Joe approached him during a training session at St Brigid’s and said: “What’s this I hear — you need a kidney? I’ll give you a kidney.”
He added: “He is so compassionate, you just would not believe it. Through the whole process and transplant his only consideration was for me.
“I have never encountered a more selfless person in all my life. That’s all I can say.”
Shane’s wife and two brothers had previously been assessed to find if their kidneys were compatible. Eventually, Shane’s sister Siobhan was found to have the right match — but had to be ruled out again after developing blood clots as a result of breaking her ankle.
Shane said he had been getting weaker over the last few years. “I was able to work because with a young family, I had to. The dialysis is tiring but I just had to get on with it,” he said.
And he described Joe’s ebullient sense of humour as both men prepared for the operation. “My wife was there and Joe said, ‘No crying, you’. And then he said to me, ‘It’s not every day that you get a kidney from an All-Ireland medal winner.’”
After doctors indicated that the transplanted kidney was functioning well, Shane said: “Joe says it’s because I’ve received the Taj Mahal of kidneys. Would you expect him to say anything else?”
Dungiven-born Joe, a well-known figure in GAA circles and a panelist on RTE’s The Sunday Game, told The Irish Mail on Sunday he was inspired to help Shane because he had been unable to save his cousin Catherine Quinn, who died last year after receiving a lung transplant. She left a husband, former Derry player Danny, and three young children.
Father-of-five Joe said: “It was devastating when you see the damage that it causes and the pain it causes within the family. For young children... those children are so well looked after and all, but it’s very difficult.”
He said he felt helping Shane was the chance to save another family from that devastation.
Barrister Joe and his wife Emma, a solicitor, have also looked after a niece after their mother Brigid — a sister of Emma — died of cancer.
He said he was euphoric that his kidney turned out to be a perfect match. Shrugging off any suggestions of heroism, he said: “I feel just brilliant and Shane has a fully functioning kidney. I don’t feel one bit saintly.”
“The thing about Joe, he has many faults but he was never lacking in generosity. The one thing I am very proud of is that he’s a very good community person. People who have so much talent and are given so much, there’s an obligation to give back to people who need it more.” - Anne Brolly, Joe Brolly’s mother
“I have never encountered a more selfless person in all my life. That’s all I can say.” - Shane Finnegan, who received a kidney from Joe Brolly