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Community spirit shines as Coachford remembers Sandra

Locals honour the late Sandra Murphy's memory and unite to raise funds for Irish Kidney Association


The late Sandra Murphy with her husband Declan and sons Mark and Eric

The late Sandra Murphy with her husband Declan and sons Mark and Eric

Coachford AFC’s Dhani Merrick outside the Rogers Centre in Toronto during his leg of the fundraising run

Coachford AFC’s Dhani Merrick outside the Rogers Centre in Toronto during his leg of the fundraising run


The late Sandra Murphy with her husband Declan and sons Mark and Eric

The community in Coachford has come together to celebrate the life of a local mother who sadly passed away due to organ failure during the COVID-19 lock-down and to raise money for the Irish Kidney Association.

Sandra Murphy, mother to Eric and Mark, and the husband of local Centra Store owner Declan, passed away on March 18 as a result of complications arising from a kidney disease.

As a mark of respect to Sandra and her family more than 90 people donned their trainers to undertake individual runs - collectively clocking up an impressive 858 kilometres and raising more than €17,000 for the association in the process.

Second year pupil Eric and his brother Mark, a Leaving Cert student at Coachford College , are both talented sportsmen and popular members of both Aghabullogue GAA and Coachford AFC clubs.

With the COVID-19 restrictions preventing their friends, colleagues, teachers and supporters of both clubs coming together for Sandra's funeral, they decided to honour her memory by organising two running events to raise organ donor awareness and raise funds for the association.

The first, which had a distinctly GAA twist, took place over three days in May and saw students and teacher at Coachford College clocking up an impressive 400km between them. A video compilation of the event uploaded to youTube by Coachford College teacher Shane Creed also saw 60 players from 12 other clubs pucking a sliotar or kicking a ball and symbolically passing on the baton ball to the next person to take up the running challenge.

Cousins Luke and Billy Casey at Coachford AFC set club members past and present a target of collectively running 300 kilometres - equal to the distance from Coachford to the national kidney transplant centre at Dublin's Beaumont Hospital. Kenneth Hogan, who works in Dublin, completed the final leg of the route in the capital, while his brother undertook a 10km leg in Wales and Dhani Merrick did his run in Toronto.

Other diaspora also supported the event and in the end more than 30 players covered a total distance of 458km, raising almost €16,000.

Coachford AFC treasurer Peter O'Riordan said Sandra's death had a "deep impact on all club members who felt fortunate to have know her."

"Sandra was a great supporter of the club and was always on the side lines cheering on her sons. Her passing away during lock-down, while funeral gatherings were prohibited, presented us with a challenge as we really wanted to find a way to pay our respects to her husband Declan, a coach and past player and her sons who play for the club," said Peter.

"It was wonderful to be able to find a way to do this and we could never have anticipated the level of support it achieved from our club, Coachford's village community and its diaspora while increasing organ donor awareness," he added.

Shane Creed said the format of the fundraiser allowed people demonstrate their sympathies to the Murphy family while observing social distancing guidelines and "doing something positive".

"By engaging in events which were both physically and mentally uplifting for all the students and teachers to honour Sandra's memory and help raise awareness about the plight of people with organ failure while raising vital funds for the Irish Kidney Association," he said.

Declan Murphy said he was "humbled and deeply grateful to the people of Coachford and the wider community" for their profound expression of support to his family on Sandra's passing.

"They found a wonderful way to celebrate her life while raising funds for the Irish Kidney Association and increasing awareness around organ donation," said Declan.

He explained how Sandra had been undergoing dialysis treatment for polycystic kidney disease and underwent an operation to have one kidney removed.

"We were disappointed last year when the living donor kidney transplant operation at Beaumont Hospital which Sandra and one of her close friends were to undergo, was halted at the eleventh hour. This was as a result of an unforeseen medical issue arising just before Sandra was to be wheeled down to theatre for surgery," said Declan.

Following this Sandra's health continued to worsen, causing her liver function to be severely compromised and most of her final year leading up to her passing away in March was spent as a patient at the renal unit at Cork University Hospital.

"We are grateful to consultant Dr Eva Long and her team at CUH for their professionalism and care. We would also like to thank the nursing and medical staff who cared for her during the time she spent at St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin and Beaumont Hospital," said Declan.

"Part of Sandra's wonderful legacy is that in the celebration of her life after death our community has raised funds which will go to the Irish Kidney Association to help other kidney patients like her. My family takes consolation from this."

To find out more about organ donation and to support the work of the Irish Kidney Foundation visit