Tuesday 26 September 2017

Finnegan bids to raise Motor Neurone awareness with Ravenhill GAA match

Orla Bannon

Former Antrim football captain Anto Finnegan has revealed he has been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and is embarking on a campaign to raise funds and awareness into the condition.

The 40-year-old has been battling MND since August 2012 but is only now making his diagnosis public.

Finnegan, who played for the Saffrons from 1994-2005, hopes to organise a GAA match at Ravenhill, the home of Ulster Rugby, as part of the fund-raising initiative for his trust 'deterMND'.

Although details have still to be finalised, it's believed the fixture will be played early in 2014.

Finnegan explained: "Ideally the game would have been at Casement Park, but with the redevelopment taking place there and the pitch unavailable, we were keen to keep the event in Belfast.

"Ulster Rugby are very keen to make it happen, and so is the GAA in Antrim and Ulster, and it's a unique opportunity to stage a GAA match at Ravenhill."

Speaking for the first time since being diagnosed with the disease, Finnegan admitted it has been difficult coming to terms with the fact MND has no known cause and no known cure.

"I went to the doctor with an unrelated problem and he noticed there was a twitching in the muscle," said the father of two.

"After going for various tests, I was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, which affects about two in every 100,000 people.

"It was total disbelief really, but myself and my wife kept it to ourselves for a while and then told our immediate families and a few close friends.

"There was nothing physical to say 'there's an issue' so we made a conscious decision to hold off until we felt it was opportune for our children to know.

"That was a couple of months ago, so now we have got to this stage.

"Both my wife and myself are determined to take some positives out of this negative thing that has entered our lives.

"You can go one of two ways – you can go home and live in a bubble, or you can use the background that you have in sport to try and raise awareness of the illness, and generate funding for research."

His club St Paul's is staging a sevens tournament taking place this weekend, with more events planned in the coming weeks and months.

Irish Independent

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