READY, willing and able, they don’t want pity or teary tributes. Disabled athletes do want what the top sports figures get: respect and recognition.
Blackrock native Dylan McCarthy, (20) has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome where he easily dislocates his joints and has no weight bear due to a lack of collagen in his ligaments which keep the joints together. Dylan, a business studies student at MUT, is a kind and philosophical young man as he tried to sum up his life in a wheelchair.
“Although the majority of people are so nice and want to help there are times when I would like to be able to do things for myself,” said Dylan McCarthy.
“Just because you’re in a chair doesn’t mean your independence is gone.”
Dylan is a positive person and joining the Rebel Wheelers, a club that helps children from the age of five, offering them a range of sports and activities to take part in was one of the best things that happened in his life.
At the age of 10, Dylan was playing both rugby and basketball but when he was 17, he decided to concentrate on the latter as the structured training began to suit him more.
“I can honestly say the Rebel Wheelers have done so much for people over the years in all different codes but outside of the sport it’s the friendships that you make that ensures there is happiness and goals in our life.”
The Rebel Wheelers under player-coach Paul Ryan defeated Ballybrack Bulls in the 2018 National Cup final and a year later they saw off Killester in a display that lit up the National Basketball Arena in Dublin.
As a reporter, this scribe was astounded with the fitness and physicality shown in both finals, but with a wry smile Dylan explained there is serious preparations when it comes to national cup basketball.
“We thrive on our fitness because we press and defend from start to finish and if you are not in shape you will be found out on the big stage.”
Plays and structures form the foundation for all basketball teams and McCarthy was quick to point out that wheelchair basketball is no different.
“It’s not a case of going out there and hoping for the best actually we work on many plays because the majority of wheelchair teams play stringent defence and you got to find a way to break them down.”
Con Coughlan led the Rebel Wheelers in their 2019 cup success but now they a new coach in Alan Dineen.
“Paul Ryan was an excellent player-coach but as we got more successful, he felt a coach on the sideline was needed as you get to see more what’s happening on the court and Con did an excellent job in his time at the helm.
“Alan played with us for a number of years and was also an excellent wheelchair rugby player for club and country but then decided he would have a better mindset as a coach and now he is the boss with Con Coughlan still among the coaching staff.”
The role of parents in Wheelchair sports is astonishing and Dylan took the opportunity to thank his mother Sandra, father Michael and sister Sarah for the incredible work they do for him and the club.
“We couldn’t operate without all our parents as our club is parents based in how it operates, and we are blessed to have them in every sense of the word.
“For instance, my dad would drive the bus at times and my mam would be involved in fundraising and helping with other parents on the catering side when we are hosting teams.”
The present pandemic has certainly taken its toll on many families and when you are a wheelchair user it’s also a tough pill to swallow.
“It definitely took its toll on us but now that we are back training outdoors the feelgood factor is back among the lads.
“In recent times we have started playing 3x3 basketball and that’s been a huge boost to the lads and hopefully we get back indoors sooner than later because it could be up to 18 months on the sidelines and that’s not good for the mentality of any athlete.”
Communication with friends has also been curtailed and Dylan will be happier when life returns to a small bit of normality.
“Just because we are in wheelchairs doesn’t make us different as we like to have the craic, but the bottom line is that everybody has been restricted particularly elderly people who I have a lot of sympathy for and their families.”
Basketball has been totally wiped out since March 2020 and Dylan misses watching SuperLeague games at the Neptune Stadium.
I had a season ticket at Neptune and enjoyed going to their home games and I think when this pandemic is over, we will never take things for granted again.”
There is little doubt the attitude of Dylan McCarthy is something he and his family should be very proud of and his parting words shows the true nature of this caring young man.
“I still live my life, I still play my sport and I still do everything an able-bodied person would do but just in a different way and that’s how I live my life.”