Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

Counties united to show support for Joe Brolly

Joe Brolly gave a kidney to friend Shane Finnegan
Joe Brolly gave a kidney to friend Shane Finnegan

Ahead of this year's All-Ireland football and hurling Championships, The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that a number of teams will be wearing jerseys sporting the 'Opt for Life' logo.

Opt for Life is the organ donation charity made famous throughout the GAA after Joe Brolly donated a kidney to Shane Finnegan, a fellow coach of the St Brigid's underage teams in south-Belfast.

Teams that have already agreed to this are Brolly's home county Derry, whom he won an All-Ireland with in 1993, and Finnegan's home county of Antrim.

Other counties that are also expected to wear the logo are Dublin footballers and Kilkenny hurlers. The Dublin link comes about through Brolly's friendship with Dr Dave Hickey, the present Dublin team doctor who won three All-Irelands with the Dublin team of the '70s and is also Ireland's leading transplant surgeon.

In the last fortnight, Brolly came into contact with legendary Kilkenny hurler Eddie Keher at the Croke Park launch of the GAA Golf Classic and that may have been the moment that set the wheels in motion for the logo to be included on the famous black and amber stripes.

Such a development was made possible at this year's GAA Annual Congress when Motion 27 amended Rule 1.17 of the Official Guide on playing gear, to allow for additional branding on the team jersey. Interestingly, Joe Brolly also addressed Congress that weekend on the Friday night, making an impassioned plea on the importance of becoming a donor.

Derry Chairman John Keenan explained how the approach was made to the county board this week.

"Joe rang and asked if Derry would be good enough to consider putting Opt for Life logos on their shirts for the Ulster Championship, senior football and senior hurling teams," said Keenan.

"It went to our management committee meeting on Wednesday night and we were delighted at the request and to raise awareness."

When asked if this was a 'game-changer' in how counties might chose to have a charity rather than another business as their secondary logo on the jersey, Keenan replied: "I wouldn't call a charity a sponsor at all. It's certainly going into the space where a second sponsor would be for other counties.

"Joe, being a Derry man himself and a larger-than-life character, he deserves that on a Derry shirt.

"What he is trying to achieve, if Derry can in any way help him to achieve that ... What has happened to Joe in his life, he's been magnanimous in his human generosity.

"To give part of yourself to help someone less fortunate, I think it would be wrong, morally wrong for Derry to refuse a request on this occasion. I wouldn't even align it with sponsors.

"Joe Brolly is one of Derry's most famous sons and through his own personal contribution to the generosity and the hospitality, he has given something, literally a part of himself."

The logo will be worn for the first time in Ulster on Sunday June 2, when Derry welcome Down to Celtic Park for the first round of the Championship.

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