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Driven to succeed - The talented teen tearing up the track

Talented Duleek teen Holly Dunnion was the first ever female winner of a Motorsport Ireland racing championship title breaking down barriers for girls in what is often seen as a male dominated sport, not even letting a diagnosis of diabetes stand in her way.

The proud parents of a budding young racing kart driver from Duleek have opened up about their daughter’s shock diabetes diagnosis during the first lockdown last year saying “it will not hold her back.”

In 2019 13-year-old Holly Dunnion who was eleven at the time become the first-ever female winner of a Motorsport Ireland racing championship title breaking down barriers for girls in what is often seen as a male dominated sport.

The talented racer has competed at tracks all over Ireland including the famous Mondello Park in Kildare and her local track Whiteriver in Collon. Holly got her first kart when she was seven and competed in her first race at a track in Athboy with a local club. As with everyone, the youngster was forced to scrap training and competitions with the onset of the pandemic but little did she or her family know what other challenges were to face them.

On Easter weekend 2020, during the height of the first lockdown, the teenager was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Looking back, Holly’s mother Aoife recognised some “tell-tale” symptoms of diabetes including her daughter being thirstier than usual and her weight loss.

Growing more concerned, Aoife took her to their local pharmacist who checked Holly’s blood glucose levels and sent her to the local hospital for further tests. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

The diagnosis was a surprise to the entire family, but after a short stay in hospital, Holly returned home and began adapting to her condition.

“It was a shock, It was life changing for us all,” said Holly’s dad Michael.

“She is very brave, she took it in her stride and made it her own, she is control, she knows what she has to do inside out, she doesn’t rely on us for anything. “She has learned herself and knows exactly what to do with carb counting, changing ratios for sporting activities or whatever is going on. “She is getting ready for secondary school now and getting back to kart racing and managing it all, she is not letting it control her, she is in control.

“One of her biggest fears was that her friends might think she was a bit different and she mightn’t get invited to parties in case they thought Holly can’t have sweets because of diabetes but that never materialised she realised that she can have goodies as long as it is accounted for in the day.

“Her friends are very good and very supportive so she had nothing to worry about.”

The teen has started using Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system that allows people with diabetes to monitor their glucose levels anywhere and anytime by wearing a sensor on the back of the upper arm. This eliminates the need for routine finger prick tests.

“It gives her independence. She can monitor her levels herself and continue throughout her day as normal,” says Aoife.

“You have to accept that this is going to be with Holly forever, and it’s all about understanding how we can best support her.

“There’s really nothing she can’t do, and it’s important to remember that.”

Holly is now the third generation of the family embarking on a racing career. The family fascination with motorsport started with her granddad Mike, a Donegal man who spent the 1970s’, 80s’ and 90s’ competing in rallies throughout Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man.

For the teen, her dreams and ambitions are firmly focused on her love of karting: “I want to drive my Dad’s KZ Kart as soon as I can reach the pedals. I’d also love to become a Rally Driver like my Granddad Mike.”

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