Friday 19 January 2018

Paul O’Connell tells of friendship with brave Donal Walsh

Lynne Kelleher

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.

Donal Walsh with Ronan O'Gara
Donal Walsh with Ronan O'Gara
Local Hero Award winner Donal Walsh.
Donal Walsh with Paul O'Connell
Elma and Fionnbar Walsh with Donal’s People of the Year award.
Donal Walsh during his appearance on RTE's Saturday Night Show with Brendan O'Connoe. Picture courtesy RTE
Donal Walsh
Donal Walsh
The family of the late Donal Walsh including his mum Elma, father Fionnbar and sister Jema fundraising on the streets of Tralee earlier today for a number of charities close to Donal's heart during 'Donal's Day' yesterday. Pic Steve Humphreys
The family of the late Donal Walsh including his mum Elma, father Fionnbar and sister Jema fundraising on the streets of Tralee earlier today for a number of charities close to Donal's heart during 'Donal's Day'. Also in the pic is Erin (10), Padraig (6) and Deirdre (12) O'Halloran from Castlegregory Kerry. Pic Steve Humphreys
15-06-2013: Fr Francis Nolan celebrating the months mind mass for the late Donal Walsh at St. John's Church Tralee on Saturday. Picture: Eamonn Keogh (MacMonagle, Killarney)
15-06-2013: Fionnbarr Walsh speaking at the months mind mass for the late Donal Walsh at St. John's Church Tralee on Saturday. Picture: Eamonn Keogh (MacMonagle, Killarney)
Kerry boy Donal Walsh passed away to night ... Donal Walsh from Blennervillie Co Kerry pictured at home . Walsh family pictured L/R Mum Elma , Donal , sister Jema and Dad Fionnbar .. Photo from : Walsh family Domnick Walsh / Eye Focus LTD © Tralee Co Kerry Ireland Phone Mobile 087 / 2672033 L/Line 066 71 22 981 E/mail - domnickwalsh@eircom.net www.dwalshphoto.com
Ronan O'Gara carries the remains of Donal Walsh from St Johns Church in Tralee Co Kerry yesterday. Pic Steve Humphreys 15th May 2013.

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

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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