Waterford hurler left struggling to breathe calls for oxygen tanks at all GAA clubs

A Waterford hurler has spoken on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta about how a routine belt of a hurley in a match on Easter Sunday left him unable to breathe and very seriously ill.

Eoghan Breathnach has called on the GAA to consider installing oxygen tanks in clubs across the country.

Breathnach, 37, from An Rinn in Waterford, was playing a junior hurling match with his local team against Baile an tSagairt on April 1 when he got a belt of the hurl in the ribs.

While he initially thought he was just winded, it became clear when he collapsed that things were more serious. It transpired that he had, in fact, broken three ribs, one of which had punctured his lung.

Eoghan Breathnach with his son Fionn.

He explained what happened in an interview with Helen Ní Shé on the An Saol ó Dheas programme.

He said: “You get a certain amount of belts like that in any match and I thought I was just winded, but then the medic from Baile an tSagairt came over and said that she thought I had broken ribs.

"I started to head towards the car with the manager to go to the doctor, but I collapsed after 10 steps.

“I was out of breath, and the breathing got harder and harder over the next 15 to 20 minutes.

After that, I couldn’t breathe really.

"The medic, Tina Ní Mheachair, sent her brother down to her mother’s house to bring back her mother’s oxygen tank. Without that, I was in big trouble.”

Eoghan, a teacher in Gaelscoil Thiobraid Árann in Tipperary town, said that the ambulance took 50 minutes to arrive, and that the oxygen was vital during that time.

He said: “It was frightening alright, I was ok for the first five or 10 minutes after it happened, I was able to breathe a bit, and I knew help was on the way, but as time was moving on I was worried that I was really in trouble.

"And of course, my wife Caroline was there, and it wasn’t nice for her to be seeing all that.”

Eoghan Breathnach with his wife Caroline and his son Fionn.

“Except for the oxygen, I’d be a goner, I’m sure of that. After 20 minutes I had no breath left myself, I couldn’t do it anymore, and the ambulance didn’t arrive for 50 minutes, so I wouldn’t have had a hope without it.”

After the paramedics arrived, Eoghan was evacuated by helicopter to University Hospital Limerick, and spent 10 days with a tube in his chest.

He is calling on the GAA to consider oxygen tanks for every club in the country.

He said: “I think that the GAA should look at getting oxygen tanks for every GAA club around the country.

"Most clubs now have a defibrillator ... and the oxygen would be great if someone is badly hurt, or has a broken a leg, or for an underage match with kids with asthma, it’s a brilliant resource and it costs a lot less than a defibrillator.”

In the interview, Eoghan thanked all those who assisted him at the pitch, especially Tina Ní Mheachair and Máire Ní Riain, and the community of Baile an tSagairt.

He hopes to be back at work, teaching in Gaelscoil Thiobraid Árann, shortly.

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