Niall gets the ball rolling in Bushmills

Niall Finnegan, the first torchbearer in Bushmills pictured with John McMullan prior to the official run through the village.INBM23-12 228JC
Niall Finnegan, the first torchbearer in Bushmills pictured with John McMullan prior to the official run through the village.INBM23-12 228JC

IN Bushmills the first recipient of the Olympic Torch was brave Niall Finnegan.

The 15-year-old from Derry has a life-threatening liver problem and could undergo a transplant in the coming months.

On Sunday he was surrounded by well-wishers as he prepared to set off on his leg of the relay.

Taking a few seconds out from posing for photographs with members of the public the sports-mad teenager said he was delighted to be taking centre stage.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” he told the Ballymoney Times.

“All my mates have been talking about it and a lot of my friends and family are here to see me.

“I’m not really nervous, it’s really good fun.”

Niall was nominated as a torchbearer by his dad who told the organisers:

“Niall is my son. He has a kidney problem - he is living his life on less than 30% kidney function and, as he grows, this is deteriorating further. Despite this he is an excellent hurler and a fine soccer player. Last year he won player of the year in hurling because of his hard work, dedication, skill and discipline.

“He fights for every ball, never gives up and respects his team mates, coaches and opponents. He is an example to his peers who want him in their teams.

“During Olympic year he may need to have a living donor transplant from either his mother or from me.

“Holding the Olympic Torch would prove to him that anything can be done - so long as you believe. It would inspire us all in preparation for the transplant. His gift to me is that he has inspired me to spend time with him and be a better father that I would otherwise have been.”