Saoirse Lally and Niamh Boland pictured at the launch of the Dillon Quirke Foundation in Buswells Hotel, Dublin.

People in Meath urged to recognise the life-saving impact of cardiac screening

People in Meath urged to recognise the life-saving impact of cardiac screening

Dillon Quirke Foundation aims to reduce number of deaths from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome through nationwide cardiac screenings for under-18s

A new Foundation was officially launched this week with the ambitious aim of providing life-saving cardiac screening for young people in [COUNTY] and across Ireland.

The Dillon Quirke Foundation was established by the family of the late Tipperary hurler, Dillon Quirke, who collapsed and died during a hurling match at Semple Stadium in August 2022. Its aim is to reduce the number of young people in Ireland dying from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS).

On average, 100 young people die in Ireland each year because of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome . Many of these deaths could be prevented by identifying heart conditions at an early stage – before they cause symptoms – through cardiac screening.

The Dillon Quirke Foundation is now calling on people in Meath to consider the impact that cardiac screening could have on young people in their local community.

Through a partnership with Advanced Medical Services (AMS), a provider of onsite medical services, the Foundation plans to screen at least 10,000 young people aged 12 to 18 this year, with an initial focus on those who play GAA, soccer and rugby.

It has already provided screenings to more than 1,200 young competitors as part of a pilot programme in recent months and expects to have screened over 1,300 by the end of this month.

Speaking at the official launch of the Foundation earlier this week, Dillon’s father, Dan Quirke, said: “After Dillon’s death, it didn’t take us long to discover how many young people in Ireland die from SADS every year.

" Most of these deaths occur in those who participate in high intensity sports and could be prevented with better public awareness of the condition and the benefits of cardiac screening from a young age.

“We have set up the Foundation in Dillon’s memory to create more understanding nationally of how cardiac screening can help save lives, and to provide free screening opportunities for young people.

“Our work would not be possible without the support of people across the country, including in Meath– sporting bodies, grassroots sports clubs, high-profile players, funders, parents and, of course, young people themselves.

"We are very grateful to all those who have donated to and supported the Foundation since our establishment, and we want to continue to raise funds to allow us to expand our reach and grow our free screening programme.”

Omnibus research conducted by the Dillon Quirke Foundation in January shows widespread public support for cardiac screening of young people.

More than 4 in 5 (83%) believe there should be free cardiac screening provided to those aged 12 to 18, with the figure increasing to 88% among parents with children engaged in sport.

The research also shows that 71% of the Irish population are aware of SADS. However, less than 22% fully understand what it is, and close to 1 in 3 (29%) have only heard the name or aren’t aware of the condition at all.

Foundation calls for screenings to become mandatory and Government-funded

Former Ireland international Niall Quinn is the chair of the Dillon Quirke Foundation. Speaking at the launch, he said that there is no doubt that cardiac screening saves lives. “In Italy, all individuals who participate in sports that require regular training and competition must – by law – undergo cardiac screening every year. This has led to an 89% reduction in deaths from SADS since the law was introduced in 1982. Just imagine: if we established a similar system to Italy, we could save 89 lives every year.

“With this in mind, we are calling on the Government to provide free cardiac screening for all young people. And we are calling on the National Governing Bodies of high-intensity sports to make screening mandatory for young competitors – in the same way that wearing a helmet or other protective gear is mandatory for certain sports.”

Dan Quirke added: “Ultimately, we hope that Dillon’s legacy will be that every young person in this country – including every young person in Meath – will have access to Government-funded screening for their heart, and that cardiac screening becomes a requirement for all underage players. This is the ambition of the Foundation over a five-year period. While we wait for the Government and the national sports bodies to take action, we are filling this gap ourselves – by funding free screening nationwide.”

The Foundation’s launch event this week was addressed by Dan Quirke and Niall Quinn, as well as a panel comprised of medical director with AMS and the FAI, Dr Alan Byrne; Galway manager and former Kilkenny player, Henry Shefflin; Mayo footballer Saoirse Lally; Bandon hurler Michael Cahalane, who was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2014; and Tom Boland, whose daughter was diagnosed with two cardiac conditions linked to SADS. Attendees included members of the Oireachtas, the sporting and medical communities, and supporters of the charity, including employees from Abbott’s vascular business.

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About the Dillon Quirke Foundation

Dillon Quirke was 24 when he collapsed during a hurling match and died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (SADS) on 5th August 2022 in Semple Stadium, Thurles. Dillon died while captaining his club, Clonoulty-Rossmore, in a championship match against Kilruane McDonaghs.

The Foundation was subsequently established by Dillon’s family – his parents Dan and Hazel, and his sisters Shannon and Kellie – with the aim of funding widespread cardiac screening for young people (aged 12-18) involved in sport. Dillon’s family want to prevent other families from going through what they have experienced and, in the process, save lives.

Niall Quinn and Dan Quirke pictured at the launch of the Dillon Quirke Foundation in Buswells Hotel, Dublin.