Teenager Odhrán McKenna, who was minutes from death, plays part in St Mary’s Mageean Cup successOctober 28, 2016
THERE were tears on the sideline at the QUB arena as Odhrán McKenna ran onto the pitch for the final three minutes of Wednesday night’s Mageean Cup final.
His twin brother CJ had played a captain’s role as St Mary’s CBGS romped to victory over St Killian’s, Garron Tower – but it was Odhrán’s arrival that prompted the biggest cheer of the night.
Considering that just eight months ago the teenager was minutes from death after suffering a serious head injury in a car crash, his involvement in the Belfast school’s triumph was nothing short of miraculous.
“I am so pleased to have come on for the last few minutes, this means so much to me and my family,” he said.
“These guys, this team have been a tremendous support to me over the last few months, lifting me when I was down, and helping me get back playing and realising my dream – their dream.”
The 18-year-old, a member of the St John’s club in west Belfast, was left fighting for his life when his car left the road and hit a tree on February 26.
Doctors told his family that he had sustained a horrific brain injury that would leave him dead or severely disabled, but just eight days later Odhrán was sitting up in his hospital bed.
Striding out onto the pitch on Wednesday night was another huge step on his road to a full recovery.
“He wouldn’t be alive today only the Southern Trust was operating a pilot scheme where they had a rapid response vehicle and it was sent to the scene,” said mum Sonia.
“Dr Jonathon Dawson and two paramedics were on the scene and Odhrán was intubated and taken immediately to the ICU.
“He came home here on the 16th of March in a wheelchair, and would not have been allowed home only I am a nurse and was going to be his full-time career.
“Our hopes at that time were that he would just be able to walk again.”
However, Odhrán made rapid progress over the next few months and began attending the RABIU (Regional Acquired Brain Injury Unit) in Musgrave Park Hospital.
As the months went by, he wondered if he would ever play competitive sport again.
“One of the consultants suggested that a phased return to play would help him psychologically and Odhrán needed no more encouragement. He set that as his goal,” said Sonia McKenna.
Odhrán played in a hurling match six weeks ago between St John’s and Dunloy and scored two points before returning to full training with St Mary’s as they chased the Mageean Cup dream under the guidance of school coach and former Antrim footballer Paddy Cunningham.
The talented teenager was keen to acknowledge the support he has received from his family, parents Sonia and Michael, older brother Peter and particularly twin CJ.
“They all have been super, particularly CJ,” said Odhrán.
“He has been my rock right through. He has kept me going when I didn’t think that I could do things. He has pushed me on.
“I know that twins are supposed to have a strong bond, but what has happened over the last year has proven that totally and I cannot say enough good things about him.
“Also Paddy Cunningham – our coach since we stepped in through the door of St Mary’s – has also to take a lot of praise for how he prepared this team and drove them on. You saw out there how good they are.
“Paddy is more than that; he has given me the opportunity to come back and train with the boys and feel part of the whole squad.”