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'For a fella that's in his position, he's so incredibly happy' - young fan inspires Wexford club on All-Ireland final run

13-year-old Rory Whelan will cheer on St Mogue’s Fethard in Croke Park.

St Mogue's Fethard players with Rory Whelan.
St Mogue's Fethard players with Rory Whelan.

SUNDAY IS A milestone for St Mogue’s Fethard as they become the first Wexford side to contest an All-Ireland junior hurling club final in Croke Park.

It’s been a landmark season for the Wexford club as they get set to face Waterford’s Ardmore on the back of a Leinster final success over Kilkenny’s John Lockes and an All-Ireland semi-final win over Galway’s Sylane.

And their exploits on the pitch have been inspired by a leading supporter off the pitch.

13-year-old Rory Whelan was an underage player with the club who was diagnosed last year with a disorder called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).

Captain Garrett Foley spoke earlier this week of the link between the St Mogue’s players and Whelan.

“Rory is an underage club player for us and he was on Wexford underage teams as a goalkeeper. He’d be fanatical GAA supporter. He got a serious illness [Guillain-Barré Syndrome. It's left him in a difficult spot.

"His immune system attack itself and he lost the use of his muscles, his body basically. He was fighting for his life for a long time. He was in Temple Street Children's Hospital.

"After the county final, a couple of us went up to him. I wouldn't have really known him that well because there's a big age gap. I actually met him in the hospital and saw how helpless he was. He had improved a long way at that stage.

"It really struck home how much what we're doing means to him. Then a picture went up on social media of us in the hospital with him.

"After meeting him several times in the last few months, for a fella that's in his position, he's so incredibly happy - laughing and joking. If you were in his position you'd think, would you be able to put on the same front? He has in fairness to him.

"His mother and father are excellent. It's not easy on them, their whole life has changed. Only in the last number of weeks has he been able to get home at the weekends. It's bringing a bit of normality - slight normality - back to their life. He's loving that meeting his friends on the weekends."

AIB All Ireland Junior and Intermediate Club Finals Media Day Garrett Foley of Fethard St. Mogues ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Junior Hurling Club Championship Final against Ardmore taking place at Croke Park this Sunday 4th February. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

Whelan will be part of the St Mogue’s fans cheering on the players aiming for the club’s greatest ever feat on Sunday.

And the Fethard players appreciate their fortune at getting such an opportunity.

“I know he will be here on Sunday,” said Foley.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet him after the game and hopefully we’ll have a bit of silverware for him to hold. Either way, it’s going to be a great day for him and the club to be up there.

“It really made you aware how fortunate we are to be doing what we are doing – what it means to so many people. He’s living for our success at the minute. He was at the game the other day [semi-final vs Sylane] and we got a picture with him.

“You can only imagine how much that means to him. It makes your grateful for the position that we’re in and what we’re able to do – our health. If anyone deserves a bit of enjoyment through the GAA, it’s him. He’s a great young fella, he’s fighting constantly.

“It’d be a good steward to stop him getting out (on the pitch) now! If we can at all, I’m sure they’d let him. He’d love to get out.

“Hopefully, down the line, he might hurl himself out there himself. He’s a great goalkeeper. Please God, down the line, he’ll be able to get out there and hurl himself – that’s the dream.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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