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Superfan John beats illness to follow Lilywhites in bid for All-Ireland glory

IRELAND'S most dedicated GAA fan has battled kidney failure and heart disease but has never missed a single match played by his native Kildare.

John Kelly (62), an active Nurney GAA Club committee member, shot to the top of the online polls in the competition searching for Ireland's best supporter.

John was first diagnosed with diabetes in 1983, but since then had two heart bypasses, a kidney transplant and a leg amputated.

"When I had kidney failure, they did an angiogram on my left leg to see if there were blockages in the arteries and they found something blocked at the ankle," he said.

"I held onto my leg for about six weeks but it had to go."

However, the brave Kildare man has not let his illnesses hold him back and is determined to stay involved in the sport he has loved since a child.

"There's no use lying back and giving up," he said. "You have to keep trying, keep going. I've been lucky. Anywhere there's a match on, I'll be at it."

The dad-of-four made sure that his children were involved in the sport from a young age and now he is taking his grandchildren Sean (3) and Cian (1) to matches.

But he said that the GAA club in Nurney has been a great support for him, especially after he retired from lorry driving.



Campaign

John's daughter, Pamela Kelly, nominated her dad for the prize and followed up with a successful Facebook campaign, urging the people of Kildare to vote.

For their trouble, the loyal Lilywhites fan won a VIP package for the All-Ireland SFC final and a €15,000 prize to support his club, which will contribute towards putting up lights on the club's all-weather pitch.

"It's unbelievable. It's brilliant for the club," John said. "I'd like to thank everyone in the club for all their help through the years and to everyone who took time to vote."

But for now he is praying Kildare make it to the All-Ireland final.

"You can be sure that I'll be there," he said. "It'd be absolutely brilliant if Kildare did it."

John's wife Josephine joked that she is trying to get used to being "the wife of a celebrity" as people keep coming up to congratulate him.

And Johnny Kiernan from Nurney GAA club said John is a permanent fixture at the club up to six days a week.

"He's at every match from U-10 to senior level," he said. "After all the heartbreak he has been through, this is brilliant."

Former Kildare GAA Chairman Syl Merrins said John's preoccupation was always the success of Nurney and Kildare.

"As a clubmate of John's, I know at first hand his dedication and commitment to his club and county," he said.

"Over the past few years John has not always enjoyed the best of health, but I have never once heard him complain."

clairemurphy@herald.ie


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