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life savers Antrim's Neil McManus urges clubs to sign up for defibrillator scheme that ‘may save a life’

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Antrim hurler Neil McManus at Cushendall GAA Club in Antrim. Neil is an ambassador for the GAA Community Heart Programme. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Antrim hurler Neil McManus at Cushendall GAA Club in Antrim. Neil is an ambassador for the GAA Community Heart Programme. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Antrim hurler Neil McManus and his father Hugh at Cushendall GAA Club in Antrim. Neil is an ambassador for the GAA Community Heart Programme which seeks to raise awareness of the benefits of defibrillators to clubs and make it possible to fundraise to acquire them. Neil's work is inspired by his family experience five years ago when his father was saved by the presence of a defibrillator in the community during an emergency. GAA club-based defibrillators have been used to save 42 lives. For more information see: https://savealife.communityheartprogram.com/gaa. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Antrim hurler Neil McManus and his father Hugh at Cushendall GAA Club in Antrim. Neil is an ambassador for the GAA Community Heart Programme which seeks to raise awareness of the benefits of defibrillators to clubs and make it possible to fundraise to acquire them. Neil's work is inspired by his family experience five years ago when his father was saved by the presence of a defibrillator in the community during an emergency. GAA club-based defibrillators have been used to save 42 lives. For more information see: https://savealife.communityheartprogram.com/gaa. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

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Antrim hurler Neil McManus at Cushendall GAA Club in Antrim. Neil is an ambassador for the GAA Community Heart Programme. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The business of the GAA remains shut down but the work continues. When GAA media invites land in the inbox, they are often to extoll the virtues of a commercial arrangement here or a broadcast partner there. They tend to be ‘grip and grin, smile for the cameras, thanks for coming’ type of events.

Yesterday’s launch was different, however, urging clubs to upgrade Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) through a subsidised scheme via a specially built fundraising platform. Neil McManus, the Antrim star, was on hand to lend his profile to the launch. The GAA have it that 42 lives have been saved by AEDs installed at clubs around the country. McManus’s father was one of them.

McManus was in the house on the eve of a county semi-final against Loughgiel when his father arrived home early from a day out golfing.

“The other guy he was playing with advised him to go home,” McManus said. “Just because he was feeling warm and his chest was a bit tight.

“And I had a giggle at him when he came in because it was raining and I said, ‘You didn’t stick it too long’. He went into the other living room and he lay down on the sofa. We knew that was very strange for him. I just rang an ambulance and said I think my father is having a heart attack and I didn’t really know if he was or wasn’t, I just wasn’t sure I wasn’t used to him being unwell.

“And I didn’t even know there was a first responders’ unit in our area, I was pretty unfamiliar with the whole concept to be honest. A local man called Joe Burns came to our house it had to be within five minutes of me making that phone call – to find out where number 12 was and that is where our house was and he just knew by the look on my face – he said is your father alright.

“And he just brushed me aside and came in and cut the shirt open and said go get my beard trimmers, we shaved his chest and had the pads on ready to go before he had the heart attack. It was incredible how quickly he got to work, Joe is a local crew member of the RNLI in Cushendall and he got training through them and without him that day there is no way my father would still be there.”

Another local man, Hugh McIlwaine, arrived on the scene and they helped revive Hugh McManus, then just 59, at the second attempt. And there would be another reminder of the importance of defribillators the very next day.

“Liam Watson’s father took a heart attack the next day at the game while we were playing and an AED was used in Dunloy to revive him. The match was abandoned, obviously, because of what happened to Liam Watson’s father, but we met at the hospital that night because his father when he came into the hospital was rolled into the bed next to my father.”

The GAA are keen to stress that existing AEDs may need to be replaced as they have a lifepsan of between eight and ten years while the new scheme will be subsidised to the tune of almost €1,000. When the remaining total of €2,150 is raised, the club will be sent the new ‘smart’ model, which will notify designated club members via email if there is an issue with the device that needs to be addressed.

And McManus urged clubs to take up the chance to upgrade their technology.

“Unfortunately, we’ve all been aware of situations where people have gone to use it and it hasn’t been working through no fault of the club. It’s just something that has been overlooked. I don’t be checking the one down in our club but if I got a text message to say the battery was dead I would certainly go down and change the batteries. When the money is raised here and these are implemented around the pitches of Ireland, there are going to be four or five people from each community alerted whenever the battery is dead or the pads need changing. It just means it’s in working order to save a life.

“It doesn’t guarantee anything but you have the chance.”

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