independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Paul O’Connell tells of friendship with brave Donal Walsh

Rugby legend Paul O'Connell has led a string of Irish sporting stars in saluting the bravery of teenager Donal Walsh for relaying his deeply powerful anti-suicide message to teenagers in his final weeks.

In a compelling new RTE documentary on Donal’s extraordinary impact during his short life, Munster great O’Connell opens up about his genuine friendship with the Blennerville teenager which was forged when he first became ill at the age of 12.

Donal Walsh: My Story captures the fun-loving Kerry teenager who struck a chord with people around the globe when his name trended worldwide after his 19-minute TV interview speaking out against teenage suicide as he was battling terminal cancer.

fighting

O’Connell, who had spent time with Donal in his home, said he found it very hard to believe the inspirational sports-mad 16-year-old had died when he finally lost his fight against the disease in May.

O’Connell said: “I rang his dad straight away. It was very sad because the battle had gone on so long you never thought he was going to go away.

“He kept in there fighting right until the end. I felt very sad for his family who were very special people.

Donal Walsh with Ronan O'Gara
Donal Walsh with Ronan O'Gara

The Limerick sportsman said he wasn't surprised the boy made such a huge mark with his live interview on the Saturday Night Show setting out his inspiring plea to teenagers to |hold life precious, just over a month before he died on May 12 last. O’Connell said: “Suicide is a big issue among young people and Donal just felt he had something to say and he wanted to say it.”

Donal Walsh: My Story will be shown on RTE Two tonight at 9.30pm.

Irish Independent

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