By Michelle Devane, PA
A former GAA player diagnosed with a “devastating” cardiac condition at the age of 18 has urged people to get on their bikes for the charity that supported him in his darkest hour.
Former Dublin minor hurler Cormac Ryan (28) will take on the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle next month in aid of the Irish Heart Foundation, which helped him get his life back on track after his diagnosis almost ten years ago.
The traditional cycle has been cancelled due to Covid-19, so he will be taking part in the Ring of Kerry’s alternative event by cycling 170km near his home in Wilton, Co Cork.
In 2012, Mr Ryan, who won a Leinster minor hurling title with the Dublin team, began to suffer with fainting and dizzy spells on the pitch.
He was admitted to the coronary care unit and diagnosed with an atrioventricular (AV) block, which disrupts the electrical signals in the heart and can cause it to skip beats.
Mr Ryan, from Whitehall in Dublin, was told he would need to be fitted with a pacemaker.
“I was devastated. My first thought was hurling, because I was sport obsessed. Generally, with pacemakers, contact sport is out of the question,” he said.
His medical team inserted the pacemaker deep into his chest wall and he was also provided with a special protective vest to wear so he could resume hurling, making it onto the Dublin U-21 panel and lining out for his club, Whitehall Colmcille.
Despite this, the experience took its toll and he struggled with his mental health for several years.
“For a year or two I got quite depressed, I wasn’t sleeping and I wasn’t very active,” he said.
“It can make you wrap yourself in cotton wool and be very hesitant to do anything, or it can give you a kick in the backside.
“For me it was like a wake-up call, like a scare to make you embrace life and make the most of it.”
He said a range of support from the Irish Heart Foundation helped him get his life back on track.
Since then he has organised and taken part in several cycles, raising thousands of euro for the Irish Heart Foundation and other organisations and has vowed to carry on doing so.
Anyone who wants to take part in the Ring of Kerry’s 170k My Way can complete it over a day, a week or a month, between June 3rd and July 3rd.
The charity hopes 10,000 people will take part – all cycling their own chosen route for a chosen charity.