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No limits for former London GAA star who lost leg Seamus O Brien
Former London and Kingdom Kerry Gaels star Seamus O’Brien with his dogs Cooper (left) and Luna. Photo: Marie Carroll-O’Sullivan

Nearly two years after losing his left leg former London GAA star Seamus O’Brien is getting on with his life

A former London Gaelic footballer, who lost his leg in a work accident, says he and his family are humbled by the efforts of the Irish community here to help fund a new prosthetic leg that will improve his life significantly.

Seamus O’Brien 50, from Firies, Co Kerry, was crushed between a dumper and the bucket of a JCB in February 2018, while working on a construction site in Bandon, Cork.

Since then, there have been several fundraising drives to help Seamus, his wife Ruth, and their family.

The most recent is the first-ever Kerry Association London (KAL) International Golf Event (#play4seamus, 18 September) held at Aldenham GC in Watford.

When the original golf day was oversubscribed the event went virtual – the idea of former KAL Person of the Year Liz Shanahan – with people from as far away as San Francisco, Boston, Tralee, Atlanta Georgia and Scotland, all taking part by playing a round of golf at the local course up until 25 September.

No limits for former London GAA star who lost leg Seamus O Brien

Kerry stars Darran O’Sullivan, Paul Galvin, Aidan O’Mahoney and Colm Cooper were among those to lend their support by posting video messages to social media to help promote the event and the fund.

Seamus’ former GAA club in London, Kingdom Kerry Gaels Over 35s and Sevens teams, raised more than €23,000 earlier this year.

“It’s unreal; as a family we’re very, very humbled by the goodness of people,” Seamus told the Irish World.

Despite numerous operations, Seamus’ left leg couldn’t be saved and was amputated nine months after the accident.

No limits for former London GAA star who lost leg Seamus O Brien
Seamus (back row, third from right) with the Kingdom Kerry Gaels team of the late 1990s

A “life changing” moment – not just for him but for his family, wife Ruth and their four teenage children – Ciaran, Oisin, Cara and Aideen.

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Fitted with his first prosthetic leg in June, a fundraising drive has been launched towards the cost of a micro processed leg.

The cost of the new leg is €120,000, and that will last Seamus for six years.

Fundraising won’t cover the whole cost; Seamus accepts they’ll probably need to re-mortgage their house in Listry, Co Kerry. The family home also needs to be adapted to suit Seamus’ needs.

Since the accident, the self-employed carpenter has been unable to work, leaving his wife, Ruth, a nurse, as the family’s sole wage earner.

No limits for former London GAA star who lost leg Seamus O Brien

Wheelchair bound for the first six months following the accident, Ruth acted as Seamus’ carer for the first year.

Seamus says the new leg will change his life “significantly” enabling him to increase his speed of walking, and to cycle and run. He’s currently cycling using just one leg.

“It will give me more freedom to do what I want,” he said.

“I wouldn’t say my current leg is holding me back, but I’m not able to do what I really want. I’m out walking, but I can’t run.

No limits for former London GAA star who lost leg Seamus O Brien
The London team which faced Cork in the 1992 Junior All Ireland final – Seamus is in the back row, third from left

“I was always a very active person and it’s very hard to go from being so active, to being not as mobile as your head is telling you, you should be.

“I’ve gone as far as I can go with the prosthetic leg that I’ve currently got – it was only ever going to be a training leg.”

A “very motivated” person by nature, Seamus has set getting back to work as one of his goals. And the new leg, he says, will open up all sorts of other possibilities.

“I didn’t agree to having the leg amputated just to plod along. I want to get on with my life and even step out on a football field again and stand in goals. I want to climb a mountain or a hill,” he says.

No limits for former London GAA star who lost leg Seamus O Brien
Seamus with the Galway jersey he swapped with Sean O Domhnaill from London’s 1999 Connacht SFC quarter-final against the then All Ireland champions at Ruislip

“Down the line, who’s to say I couldn’t qualify for the Paralympics.”

For now, getting some form of “normality” back into all of their lives is the priority. The last couple of years have been “off the scale”.

“I’m getting there slowly but surely. I’m actually driving again,” he said.

Seamus adds: “Life is good at the moment; there’s been good days and bad days, but the good days are outnumbering the bad days.”

No limits for former London GAA star who lost leg Seamus O Brien
Man of the match in Kingdom Kerry Gaels’ senior championship semi-final win over St Clarets in 2000

His recovery is on-going. A severed urethra has him constantly “in and out of hospital” and may require further reconstruction. Seamus prefers to look on the positive side.

“I should have been killed or paralysed. I’m here and I’m not in a wheelchair. I can’t do everything, but I’m able to go somethings,” he said.

“The kids have been great, and my wife has been brilliant. Ruth’s kept everything together. And then she goes out and works three nights a week to finance the family.”

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