'My kidney transplant gave me the gift of life - and my future wife'
When Phelim O'Neill underwent his kidney transplant on his 22nd birthday, he could not have known that the gift of life would bring him and his future wife together.
Making trips to the local chemist, the Athlone man, who is now 42, struck up a bond with pharmacy technician Tracy McManus, who became his wife two years ago.
"I was going to Cooney's Pharmacy at The Crescent for my medication for years and came to know Tracy and our paths crossed socially, too," said Mr O'Neill.
"We started going out and eventually I plucked up the courage to ask her to marry me. We had our wedding at the Radisson in Athlone in 2013 and all is going well."
Mr O'Neill was diagnosed with autoimmune disease lupus in his teens - and although it was managed for a number of years, his kidneys failed at the age of 21.
After six months on dialysis, Beaumont Hospital called with the news there was a kidney waiting. The transplant took place the next day, on his 22nd birthday, now 20 years ago.
"I was so delighted on this milestone, thinking back on all that I got to do in those 20 years thanks to a very generous donor," he said.
"It was a complete success and I haven't been in hospital for anything kidney-related since, thanks to the staff at Beaumont Hospital and Merlin Park Galway."
Mr O'Neill was part of the Clann Na nGael senior football panel that won the Roscommon senior county championship last year.
At the annual awards night, he spoke about the importance of organ donation.
"My kidney transplant surgeon was David Hickey, who, like our team manager Paul Curran, is also a former Dublin footballer and All Star," he said.
Mr O'Neill has urged the public to carry donor cards as part of Organ Donor Awareness Week, run by the Irish Kidney Association from April 2-9.
"I have had a great life and travelled all over the world, which I would not have been able to do without the transplant," he added.