Dublin defender Kevin Nolan has revealed the impact Type 1 diabetes has had on his inter-county career.
The 2011 All Star, who was named that year’s RTÉ All-Ireland final man of the match, was diagnosed with the condition a few months after the county’s famous win over Kerry. As well as losing two-and-a-half stone, he also had to come to terms with going from a first team regular to an unused substitute.
“It was a real shock to the system at first and getting used to the insulin injections but the backroom staff in Dublin have been a huge help,” he said.
“Working with [Dublin team doctor] David Hickey and the staff in Beaumont Hospital was brilliant and I can overcome this and still be the best I can be as an athlete. The only problem is that the competition for places in Dublin is just unreal. I had a long year last year and after Kilmacud Crokes lost to Ballymun in the county final Jim Gavin was very understanding and he told me to take a break and recharge physically and mentally.
“I took a break for November and December but in hindsight this didn’t work out well because when I came back in the lads were already flying and it has been tough trying to get back into the team.”
Three days after beating Kerry in 2011, Nolan was diagnosed as being a coeliac and just before Christmas he received news of his diabetes.
Writing in a blog on the Dublin GAA Facebook page, he revealed: “For about two-and-a-half weeks I’d found myself waking up to go to the toilet at 2am and needing to go again at 3am and so on. I lost two-and-a-half stone and got checked out and it was confirmed as Type 1 diabetes.
“It’s not a lifestyle issue, it’s just a genetic thing. There’s no one else in my family has the condition but it was there in my genes.
“Initially, when I was told I wasn’t sure what to expect and what it meant for my sporting career. But it was when I got involved with Beaumont that I learned that it wasn’t the end of my sporting career. They were never negative.”
He has learned the value of a starting jersey during his struggle.
“It’s been tough and it means you never take a Dublin jersey for granted. But you have to keep the head up, push the lads who are starting and we are all in this together for the goal of winning an All-Ireland medal with Dublin.”
Nolan is now an ambassador for Diabetes Ireland and has learned to cope with the condition by talking to hurler Stephen Hiney and reading up on former Tottenham Hotspur captain Gary Mabbutt, both sufferers.
“It does leave you drained but activity actually helps the body and means you don’t need as much insulin if you are training. But definitely when I go in after training I take time out to sit down and relax when other lads are rushing off.
“The way we play means we regularly use 20 players in every game and you never know what will happen and when you may be needed. And as a sub, you have to be ready to not just come on but add something when you do — which is something that Kevin McManamon and Denis Bastick have really done for us this year.”
Nolan anticipates Kerry will enjoy going up against Dublin’s young skilful players this Sunday. “Kerry have so many fantastic individuals that any lapse in concentration will be severely punished. We know what they are capable of and we know we have to play better than we have done so far.”
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