GAA and Anthony Nolan

Did you know that GAA clubs across Ulster have recruited over 900 potential donors to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register since June 2017? That's incredible.

If you’re aged 16–30, you could join these fantastic people who are ready and waiting to save the life of someone with blood cancer. Ready?

For someone with blood cancer, an amazing stranger donating their stem cells could be their best chance of survival. Anyone can be diagnosed with blood cancer. But not everyone can find a matching donor.

Without you, there is no cure. 

If you sign up to the Anthony Nolan stem cell register and one day come up as a match for a patient in need, you could be the amazing stranger that changes someone’s life.

Meet some GAA lifesavers

GAA clubs across Ulster have already recruited five people who have gone on to donate their stem cells! Let them inspire you…


It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to help someone. Through the whole process, you do feel the importance of what you’re doing. You’re giving someone a chance to live.

John, who signed up in 2018 at a football training session and donated later that year

I kept thinking about who my stem cell were going to. During the donation, someone from Anthony Nolan came to visit and they said how this would give the patient and their family hope. That was good to hear.

Joseph, who signed up in 2017 at his local sports club and donated in 2019

See the difference you could make

Here are the facts

  • You can join online! You’ll get a pack in the post for you to do a cheek swab and send back. We’ll test your sample and add your information to the stem cell register.
  • You’ll stay on the register until you’re the grand age of 60. If you ever come up as a match for someone with blood cancer, we’ll be in touch.
  • We’ll organise the whole thing. We support you at every stage of your donation and arrange everything, from travel to accommodation. We've got it all covered.

There are two ways you might be asked to donate:

90% of people donate via their bloodstream in a straightforward process, called peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection.

The donation itself was just a few hours sitting there, and it wasn’t painful or anything.

John who donated via PBSC

10% have their stem cells collected via their bone marrow while under general anaesthetic.

Before the operation I actually wasn’t nervous at all, more excited to just get it done. I felt a bit achy afterwards and sore, but not too bad. I’ve felt worse after some football games. You just have to remember what the recipient is going through.

Colin, who donated via bone marrow



Can I join if I live in the Republic of Ireland?


You can only join the Anthony Nolan register if you live in Northern Ireland. If you live in the Republic of Ireland, you can join the Irish Unrelated Bone Marrow Registry.


Why do you have to be aged between 16 and 30 to join the register?


Statistics show that young people are more likely to be chosen as donors in lifesaving transplants, and our research has shown that younger donors lead to better survival rates in patients.

Of course, people over 30 can make excellent donors too, and that’s why we ask people to stay on our register until they’re 60.

In addition, it costs £40 to add each donor to our register. As a charity with limited resources, we need to focus on recruiting the people most likely to be chosen as donors.

If you’re aged 31+ and would still like to join the register, head to DKMS.


Why do you need more young men to join the register?


We’re grateful to have both men and women aged 16–30 on our register.

However, young men aged 16–30 provide over 55% of donations, but they make up only 18% of the register.


Why do you have to be willing to donate your stem cells in two different ways?


Nearly 90% of people give their stem cells through peripheral blood stem cell collection. This is a simple process, similar to donating blood.

However, in some situations and for some conditions, a patient will need stem cells from bone marrow. If that’s the case, we’ll ask you to donate bone marrow from your pelvis, which a doctor will take using a needle and syringe under general anaesthetic.


Do you need to join the Anthony Nolan register if you've already joined another stem cell register?


No. You only need to be on one register as every time a patient needs a transplant, their hospital will contact Anthony Nolan and we will search all the potential donors in the UK and around the world to find a match.

Watch our donation animation

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