meet the crew
Damian is an explorer, peak performance athlete and former professional rugby player, hailing from Galway. A long and fruitful 16 year career battling on the rugby pitches of The Celtic league, English Premiership and French Top 14 Championship, saw Damian achieve many honors including winning the 2012/13 Heineken Cup with Leinster Rugby.
During his down time from the intensity of professional sports Damian indulged his passion for travel and adventure, visiting more than 60 countries on 6 continents and continue to challenge himself outside his day job with a three week expedition into the high altitude Pamir mountains in Afghanistan, summiting Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, climbing Mont Blanc, France and Gran Paradiso, Italy.
Shortly after retirement from rugby, Damian took on the might of the Sahara desert, completing the 6 day, 257 km Marathon des Sables, also known as ‘The Toughest Footrace on Earth’, carrying everything he needed to survive on his back from the start of an unforgettable journey through the Moroccan Sahara. After a period of decompression and recovery Damian committed to rowing across the Atlantic, alone!
18 months of physical, mental and technical preparation led to the 14th of December 2017, where Damian kissed goodbye to his parents and shoved off into the unknown. 63 days 6 hours and 25 minutes later he crossed the finish line of the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge arriving in Antigua some 28kgs lighter, to a hero’s welcome. Having endured 9 meter swells, a badly cut head, capsizes, encounters with Whales, sea & pressure sores, losing an oar and complete steering failure with still over 2000 nautical miles to go to Antigua, Damian said, “A hell of an experience, hell of an adventure and a hell of a challenge. It was exactly what I wanted from the challenge, I wanted to be pushed to my limits mentally and physically and I got exactly what I wanted.
“I’m on a mission to live an extraordinary life. A life full of challenges, extremes, learning, risk, growth, fulfillment and actions. A life of integrity, sincerity and courage. My mindset is “my life will be my masterpiece”
Damian’s partner on Project Empower is Fergus Farrell. Damian and Fergus are lifelong friends who first met when they played underage rugby together for Connacht and have been friends ever since. Fergus is a former rugby player, a self-employed business man and recent recoveree from a traumatic spinal injury. On Friday October 26th 2018 Fergus ruptured his T9, T10 and T11 spinal discs in the middle of his back. One of the ruptured disc’s leaked into his spinal cord and almost shredded his spinal cord right through. After an operation in the National Spinal Unit at the Mater Hospital Fergus noticed his motionless feet and asked his surgeon if this is how he would be for the rest of his life? The surgeon put his hand on Fergus’s shoulder and calmly told him he had been extremely unlucky.
Determined that this wouldn’t be the case Fergus who was paralysed from the waist down moved to the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) and set about his recovery. About Fergus One year after his injury, on October 26th 2019 he miraculously completed a 206km walk from the site of the injury at his yard in Athenry, Galway to the NRH in Dún Laoighaire. Fergus puts his incredible recovery down to his “stubbornness, thickness and determination”. In the completing his “trek” he raised €70,000 for the NRH.
Fergus is determined to give his second chance of life everything he can give. He wants to help inspire people who find themselves in similar situations. Fergus wants to show people that the mind is a positive and powerful part of everybody’s lives and that when challenged correctly there is no limits to what you can achieve. He wants to help and inspire by his actions.