Daniel Boyle says he can still remember that feeling of immense pride when his first child, James arrived into the world.
But that feeling quickly changed when he met the nurse in the ward of Letterkenny General Hospital shortly after his son was delivered by emergency section.
“The nurse was carrying James down the ward,” Daniel recalls. “She told me he wasn’t too well. She said his leg was badly deformed.
“I remember how disappointed we were. This was our first child and naturally we weren’t really prepared for anything being wrong. But as the day went on, I think we just accepted that this was how it was going to be. I suppose we just got on with it.”
For Daniel and his wife, Breid, life changed that day in April 1997. The Dungloe couple’s new bundle of joy also had a heart condition which required major surgery in Crumlin Hospital when he was only three-days-old.
James’ early days were spent either in hospital, or in and out of hospital and, by the age of six, he was forced to have his leg removed. Since then, he has worn a prosthetic limb.
“He had his first surgery on his leg when he was nine months,” Daniel explained. “He lost his leg when he was six. The surgery was to correct the deformity but while it works for some people, unfortunately it didn’t work for James.”
Just weeks short of his 15th birthday, James from Tubberkeen in Dungloe, has long moved on and accepted his disability. The positive attitude of his loving parents has obviously rubbed off on James who has met and dealt with all the hurdles that have come his way in life up until now.
In a few weeks time, his parents and his younger brother, Brendan, will travel with James to England where the teenager will be part of the Irish Amputee football team which will compete in their first competitive international tournament.
The squad will depart from Dublin on March 30th and over the following two days will play against Poland, Germany and Great Britain in a four nations championship. James is the youngest player on the squad but he’s set to play a big part for Ireland at the tournament.
Simon Baker who is the football Development Officer with the Irish Amputee Football Association says James is a super player. “He is a fantastic lad with a great approach to the game. He’s one of our star players. His dad brings him to training in Dublin every two weeks and his attitude has been brilliant.”
James’ involvement with the Irish amputee team is an example of how much progress he has been making in recent years.
“We had James in Dublin at a clinic when I saw a poster in the surgery about the team,” Daniel said. “I thought this could be something for James and so I rang the number. It went from there. Two weeks later, there was an information day in Dublin and three members of the England team came over and had a chat. They were brilliant and we’ve been going up to Dublin for the training twice a week since then.” James also trains a number of times a week with Dungloe Boxing Club. He has also played at underage with the local GAA and soccer clubs and his dad says the staff at Roshine NS were also very supportive to James in his primary school days.
Now a second year student at Rosses Community School, his school principal says all James’ fellow pupils and teaching staff are very proud of his international call-up.
“We’ve had a few notable sporting achievements at this school recently,” John Gorman explained.
“James is a cousin of Sean ‘The Yank’ Boyle who was part of the Donegal side that won the All Ireland Vocational School’s title last year. That was a brilliant achievement but it’s fair to say that James has even surpassed that himself.
“He loves sport and he loves his football and can mix it with the best of them when they’re playing football in the yard or during PE.
“He has a fantastic attitude to everything in life and he hasn’t let anything home back since the first day he came here. Even at times when he has had to have a new prosthetic leg because he is growing, he just gets on with it.”
Dungloe has had its fair share of sporting success over the years and when young James pulls on the Irish jersey for the first time at the end of this month, it’ll mark another magnificent milestone in the life of the special teenager.