It had been a routine day at Galway Hospice until Joanne Tierney received a call from reception as she was preparing to leave for the evening. Not expecting any visitors, she made her way to reception, slightly bemused as to who it might be. As she approached reception, she was greeted by two young gentlemen. 

“We pass this building often and thought we’d call in for a look around,” Joanne, of the charity’s fundraising department was told. “We’d like to know a little more about what you guys do here.”

“They were extraordinarily open,” Joanne tells us as she recalls Saba Meunargia and Jamie Dever’s first visit to Galway Hospice in March 2016. “Often times and understandably so, first-time visitors to the hospice are a little apprehensive, but Saba and Jamie were simply curious.

“I gave them an introduction to the history of the place and the services provided, I showed them the building, shared with them some inspiring stories and explained to them, that while there is an association with dying and death, the focus at Galway Hospice is on living well and making every moment matter for our patients and their families.”

Soon thereafter, Meunargia and Dever became frequent visitors to the facility, taking time out from their busy schedules to visit those on the hospice’s Inpatient Unit and in the Day Care Centre.  Naturally, they shared their experiences with teammates like James Connolly and Ultan Dillane. Indeed, now that Meunargia and Dever have moved away from the region, Connolly and Dillane continue the relationship that their friends began.

“Before we linked in with the hospice, I didn’t really know what it would be like,” admits Connolly. “Thankfully I’d had no reason to go to one before, so I was a little apprehensive, but my perspective changed very quickly. A lot of people would think of a hospice as being quite a sad place. In actual fact, it is probably one of the most positive places I have been to.”

While not all of the patients would call themselves rugby fans, a visit from the players has, nevertheless, become a highly anticipated event at the hospice. Indeed, given the success of Connacht Rugby in recent years, many proudly display their latest photograph with James and Ultan, which thrill their visiting relatives.  

“When I tell everyone that James and Ultan are coming to visit, you can see the excitement on their faces – patients, their families, staff and volunteers,” Joanne describes. “They have and continue to help create some very special memories. You see, their visits can make a huge difference to a patient’s day and how they might be feeling.”

Throughout their time visiting the hospice, Connolly and Dillane have made many friends, giving of their time as they spend hours chatting to patients. However, one patient stands out, as Connolly explains.

“We were in the cafeteria one day and we noticed a young guy sitting down by himself. Ultan went over to him and discovered that his first language was French. Obviously Ultan speaks French too so they had an immediate connection and struck up a conversation.

“We got his number and we kept in touch, visiting him when we could. But perhaps Ultan and I were a little naïve in not really understanding how ill he was. It crept up very quickly and he deteriorated over the space of a few weeks. Sadly, he passed away a few months ago and that took a toll on us.”

Caring for patients who have life limiting illnesses, the traditional remit of a hospice has vastly expanded. While the majority of patients are cancer patients (70%), Galway Hospice also cares for people with MS and Motor Neuron disease. for example. The range of services provided is extensive and include, Inpatient Care, Home Care, as well as Day Care and Bereavement Support. All of the services are provided free-of-charge, for as long as they are needed. However, every year Joanne and her four colleagues must raise €1.8m to ensure the delivery of these services.



“While people do pass away under the care of Galway Hospice, the focus here is on ensuring quality patient-centred care and quality of life for those whom we have the privilege of caring for,” Joanne maintains. “However, some of our patients are well enough to live their lives outside the hospice.

“Every Tuesday and Wednesday, our Day Care patients are collected from their homes throughout Galway city and county by our wonderful volunteers, who take them to the hospice Day Care Centre to get their hair and nails done, to avail of aromatherapy and physiotherapy treatments; to receive medical assessments, or to simply enjoy a game of bingo or some flower arranging. During this time, their carers receive a break, which is also very important.

“Some of our Day Care patients would live alone, so when the lads come to visit and bring such positive energy, it gives them a great boost. The support of Saba, Jamie, James and Ultan, and now more of their teammates, has been and continues to be greatly appreciated by everyone at Galway Hospice.

It’s lovely to witness the level of care and compassion they have for our patients,” Joanne continues. “They don’t realise the positive impact their visits have on our patients – many recount their visits for days afterwards.

“But that’s what is so refreshing, whenever the lads come in, they come in as they are, as our friends, and that’s how we see them. A couple of years ago, you couldn’t write a story like this, but now you can. On behalf of Galway Hospice, thank you to Saba, Jamie, James and Ultan for their incredible support.” 

If you would like to support Galway Hospice, please telephone the fundraising department on 091 770868 or email


Richard McElwee

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