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Brave 13-Year-Old Is Inspiration Behind Wexford Club's All-Ireland Final Run

Brave 13-Year-Old Is Inspiration Behind Wexford Club's All-Ireland Final Run
By PJ Browne Updated

"If anyone deserves a bit of enjoyment through the GAA, it's him. He's a great young fella, he's fighting constantly," said Garrett Foley at Croke Park earlier this week.

Foley will be back there on Sunday as his side, Fethard St. Mogues take on Ardmore in the AIB All-Ireland Junior Club Hurling Championship.

The fan of which Foley spoke was 13-year-old Rory Whelan. Last April, Rory was struck down with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a condition which causes the immune system to attack part of the peripheral nervous system.

"Rory is an underage club player for us and he was on Wexford underage teams as a goalkeeper. He'd be fanatical GAA supporter," informed the Fethard captain.

He was in Temple Street Children's Hospital. After the county final, a couple of us went up to him. I wouldn't have really known him that well because there's a big age gap. I actually met him in the hospital and saw how helpless he was. He had improved a long way at that stage. It really struck home how much what we're doing means to him. Then a picture went up on social media of us in the hospital with him.

It really made you aware how fortunate we are to be doing what we are doing - what it means to so many people. He's living for our success at the minute. He was at the game the other day [All-Ireland semi-final vs Sylane] and we got a picture with him. You can only imagine how that means to him. It makes you grateful for the position that we're in and what we're able to do - our health.

Back in November, after defeating John Lockes in the Leinster final, Fethard players were pictured on the Wexford Park pitch taking what looked like a team selfe. In fact, they were actually video calling Rory.


After meeting Rory several times in recent months, Foley was struck by the young man's spirit. "For a fella that's in his position, he's so incredibly happy and laughing, joking."

If you were in his position you'd think would you be able to put on the same front? He has in fairness to him. His mother and father are excellent. It's not easy on them, their whole life has changed. Only in the last number of weeks has he been able to get home on the weekends. It's bringing a bit of normality - slight normality - back to their life. He's loving that meeting his friends on the weekends.

I know he will be here on Sunday. Hopefully, we'll be able to meet him after the game and hopefully we'll have a bit of silverware for him to hold. Either way, it's going to be a great day for him and the club to be up there.

If Fethard do manage to defeat Ardmore on Sunday, the panel want Rory involved in the Croke Park celebrations.

"It'd be a good steward to stop him getting out now! If we can at all, I'm sure they'd let him. He'd love to get out.


"Hopefully, down the line, he might hurl himself out there himself. He's a great goalkeeper. Please God, down the line, he'll be able to get out there and hurl himself - that's the dream."

Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

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