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04th May 2023

“I just felt a bit off, a bit tired initially” – How Dublin’s 2011 All-Ireland hero went from a dream to a nightmare in two months

Niall McIntyre

Kevin Nolan had the world at his feet in September 2011 when, as a 23-year-old, he won man-of-the-match in one of the most memorable All-Ireland finals ever.

It was the day Dublin toppled Kerry, ended a 16 year famine and Nolan was one of the heroes. He kicked a point that day that will go down in GAA legend.

But it was in the aftermath of that final when he began to feel unusually tired and weary. Those were the first signs that, less than two months after his high of highs, he was about to be floored by a crushing low.

Nolan decided to to go to his GP for a blood test and the results that came back an hour later would change the Kilmacud Crokes player’s life.

“He did a blood test on me and rang me about an hour after and nearly started crying down the phone.

“He said that, listen, ‘you’ve Type One diabetes, it’s going to have a massive impact on your life and footballing career.”

Nolan did everything he could – this is a man who never smoke, never drank and took his football as seriously as anything –¬† but by 2015, he was dropped off the Dublin panel by the age of 26.

Before that, his Diabetes was beginning to take its toll and he freely admits that, by that stage, he wasn’t at the level required.

It all culminated in a meeting with Jim Gavin in a Liffey Hotel in 2015, when the legendary manager told him that he was letting him go from the panel.

Nolan has the utmost respect for Gavin for meeting him face-to-face.

“Your sugars are meant to be between four and eight, and there were games where I was going in and mine was at 24 or 25 and if that’s high, the energy in your body is not where it’s meant to be.

“It’s in the blood and not the muscles.

“So, all the tests I have done recently, they’re similar or just above what a normal person would be which means your risk factors are lower than when I was first diagnosed.”

“But I just felt a bit off, a bit tired. Initially, I left it for two and a half weeks, I was constantly waking up every hour, going to the toilet, peeing out nearly pure water at that stage.

“I lost about two and a half stone in weight, constantly thirsty.

“Would have bought literally cans of club orange and coke, downed them, that thirsty, water was doing nothing for me,” he explains on this week’s GAA Hour.

“Being diagnosed with type one diabetes two months after winning the All-Ireland was been a big low point but if I had the technology that I have now, I would have been able to manage it a bit better.

Dublin were robbed of one of their best players. Nolan was robbed of his prime years but even at, he had some innings. There are very few who can say that, altogether, they’ve won an All-Ireland, an All-Ireland club, a National League, a Sigerson, an All-Ireland final man-of-the-match and an All-Star award.

The fact that he also had trials for Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers also shows just what a talented sports-man he was.

“I’m still able to play football now, I can do a lot of things – other people have worse illnesses so I’m just glad them I’m still able to do something that I still love to do,” says Nolan, who lives and teaches in Monaghan, and plays his club football for Cremartin Shamrocks.

“I suppose never really took a time, and I know people say ‘men don’t cry’ or talk about it,” he reflects now, “But I never sat down and said do you know, I have this and this is it.

“I just said to myself I have to get this ready. Like anyone else would have to get their gear and food ready, I just had to get this ready before a game or training.

“When I look back on it, and I have the diaries and books that I’d have filled in, the levels I was dealing with during games were nowhere near what they should have been in relation to blood sugar levels.

“And that was literally down to not being educated enough.”

You can listen to the full chat here.

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