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'The doctor phoned me, said she had received the results and asked would I make an appointment'

A new documentary explores 1991 Down All-Ireland winning captain Paddy O’Rourke’s battle against advanced heart disease.

Paddy O'Rourke with the Sam Maguire in 1991.
Paddy O'Rourke with the Sam Maguire in 1991.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“I WAS AT home and the doctor phoned me and said she had received the set of results and asked would I make an appointment.”

1991 All-Ireland winning captain Paddy O’Rourke is learning the results of scans on his heart. Worryingly, advanced heart disease shows up in the results.

“I was a bit shocked,” he says, “but like most things in life I take them on a level playing field. So I said, ‘Okay, what are we doing next to deal with this?”

It comes as a major surprise for the Down legend. The scene appears in the upcoming documentary Extra Time by filmmaker and Gaelic Players Association founder Donal O’Neill, whose two brothers have also suffered from heart disease.

Produced by the Irish Heart Disease Awareness charity, it follows O’Rourke’s journey to understand and fight his illness.

During the film, 48 players from the Down and Meath squads that competed in the 1991 All-Ireland final underwent coronary calcification (CAC) scans to help promote awareness of heart disease.

Down legends to take part included Mickey Linden, James McCartan, Greg Blaney and Paddy O’Rourke, while the Meath icons included Bernard Flynn, Colm O’Rourke, Martin O’Connell and Gerry McEntee.

Only only 16 of the participants were revealed to be free from heart disease – Linden and O’Connell among the men to receive a zero CAC score.

During the film, the players reflected on their careers of three decades ago, before Paddy O’Rourke’s situation became apparent.

“When you get to our stage of your life I think the great fear is to see some of your friends dying young and maybe thinking that there was something that should have been done without it,” says Colm O’Rourke during the documentary.

The former Down skipper’s test results showed his risk of a hard cardiac event as greater than 20 times that of his team-mates with a zero CAC score.

“Things can be done. Once Paddy takes the advice – he’ll do it,” said O’Neill after the discovery. “No better man. But I think the message is that if Paddy O’Rourke has got advanced heart disease, you’ve got to go have a look (and get a test).”

The documentary is available to watch at

Watch the trailer below:

Source: Prime Movement/Vimeo

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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