"With that, my vision went and I collapsed to the ground"

Ahead of Happy Heart day, Athlone footballer Cathal Joyce spoke of his cardiac arrest

Dublin, Galway, Cork, Ladies Football

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

September 13th 2015 - semi-final day in the intermediate football championship at Cusack Park in Ennis, Co. Clare.

Athlone were due to face Clare - but for Cathal Joyce, he would not stand out alongside his team mates.

"I completed the warm-up, felt grand the whole way through," he told The Pat Kenny Show. "I started feeling dizzy and [my] coordination was going. I was dropping footballs and I was kicking them off target.

"I just said to one of the lads 'would you mind bringing me over to the dugout?' He linked me over.

"My brother [James] was the physiotherapist on the day. He came over and he said 'what's wrong with you?' I told I was just feeling dizzy, wasn't great. With that my vision went and I collapsed to the ground."

Cathal suffered a cardiac arrest, and required three rounds of CPR and one buzz off the defibrillator. It is believed that Joyce’s heart stopped for several seconds.

Cardiac nurse Stacy Egan assisted him, as well as his brother James, Rosemount player Dr. Patrick Boland and Athlone vice-chairman Gordon Brett.

Following the incident, James said that it was a miracle his brother was still alive.

Cathal had an ICD implanted under his left collar bone - essentially a mini-defibrillator if his heart ever stops again.

Three weeks after the cardiac arrest, Cathal's beloved Athlone secured the county title with a win over Tubberclaire. Six months later, he was back on the pitch.


James was only able to come to his brother's aid because he knew CPR - a life-skill taught to both brothers by their father.

"All the way through, he was showing us tips - doing CPR with the mannequins, how to use a defibrillator," he said.

Cathal only recently learned the reasoning behind his father's decision to teach CPR, as he witnessed his own father having a heart-attack. His father's brother then performed CPR on him, saving his life.

Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Brigid Sinnott, retired ICU nurse and resuscitation expert said Cathal was very lucky to be surrounded by people with such expertise.

"Our whole mission is that anybody that needs CPR gets good quality CPR," she said. "It is improving in Ireland - in 2015, 148 people went home to their families alive after cardiac arrest."

A CPR for Schools programme is now in progress - schools are being supplied with mannequins as teachers are taught how to properly give someone CPR. Teachers then facilitate the course for students.

  • If you find somebody collapsed, check the area is safe for you to approach
  • Shake them by the shoulders - if they're unresponsive, call the ambulance service on 999 or 112 (if you can put your phone on loudspeaker, the paramedic will talk you through how to perform CPR)
  • Put your hands on the centre of the chest and pump the chest up and down at about 1 compression per second