THE IRISH RUGBY players took time out of their Six Nations preparations this week to welcome four-year-old cancer sufferer Merryn Lacy to their Carton House training session.
Lacy, who has stage four Neuroblastoma cancer and is currently undergoing frontline treatment, and chemotherapy, in Crumlin, was greeted by Ireland captain Paul O’Connell and his teammates after their Monday training session.
Mick Lacy told TheScore.ie of his daughter’s brave battle with cancer and how rugby stars Rob Kearney, Devin Toner and Chris Henry are now rivalling Katie Taylor as her sporting hero. The Lacys were invited out to the training camp in Maynooth by Ireland skills coach Richie Murphy. They were greeted by team manager Mick Kearney and introduced to the players as they left the pitch.
Lacy said, “All of the players were absolutely great and they all came over to say hello. I must say that Paul O’Connell, Ian Madigan and Rob Kearney were all fantastic and showed a genuine interest in Merryn. She was in awe of Devin Toner when she met him and as he’s so tall [6' 10"] she looked up and must have thought he went on and on.
Chris Henry was really great, too, and stopped for a good while to talk to us. He was great with Merryn. It means a lot to us that the lads, who have such a big game coming up at the weekend, took the time out to stop, chat and pose for pictures.”
The young girl from Donabate visited Katie Taylor last year and Lacy says she was constantly asking to watch recordings of the Irish boxers Olympic fights after their meeting. Now, he remarks, she will be cheering on Ireland with the rest of the country when they take on England at Twickenham this Saturday.
Lacy explains that the visit out to Carton House was fortunate as it fell during a short window of opportunity between his daughter’s chemotherapy treatment. “She finished chemo on Sunday,” he said, “and was in good form on Monday so we took Richie up on his invite. The chemo only really starts to affect Merryn’s body after a few days so she will be laid low later in the week.”
Another reason for the trip out to Carton House was to raise awareness of a fundraising campaign to pay for Merryn’s treatment and care. She will continue her treatment at Crumlin Children’s Hospital until the end of this year and the Lacy family, including mother Jude and Merryn’s younger sister Cora , are hopeful that she will be approved for surgery, which should alleviate her condition, in the coming weeks.
Lacy cautions, however, that even if his daughter does beat cancer, Neuroblastoma sufferers face a staggering relapse rate of 70%. Further, extensive treatments may follow down the line and other countries [America, Germany and the UK] are pioneering new techniques such as blocker treatment. The Lacys are therefore fundraising for a rainy day they hope they will never have to face.
Lacy said, “As parents, we feel we owe it to her to do our best for her because she has done everything that has been asked of her, be it the early morning injections or the endless rounds of treatment.”
“Any money raised,” he added, “that does not go towards Merryn’s treatment and care will go towards research on children’s cancers.”