Helping a brave son of Ireland

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Today I spoke to John Mangan, a lovely Irish guy who works as L’Oréal UK Luxury Fragrance Division Deputy General Manager. He used to work in the French beauty group’s travel retail division, and as a result played in the annual Cannes rugby ‘test’ between the rest of the world and the French on a couple of occasions.

Our playing paths crossed at different ends of the spectrum. I was well beyond my ‘sell-by’ date in Cannes (it showed) while John was simply cutting swathes through the opposition with his speed and all-round skills. We struck up a conversation after one game and I was impressed by what an affable, intelligent soul he was.

The next I heard of John Mangan was a couple of weeks ago when Autogrill Retail UK Chief Executive Mark Riches called me up to tell me the horrifying story of a rugby injury suffered by John’s brother Stuart. By all accounts Stuart, aged 24, was an even better player than John. But on 5 April in a club match in London that all changed.

Playing at fly half (number 10), Stuart was involved in an injury that instantly transformed his life and the lives of his family. He was kept alive on the pitch but was left paralysed from the neck down in the most catastrophic rugby injury seen in recent years.

Categorized as C1 Complete, he is unable to breathe without a ventilator and will require 24-hour medical care for the rest of his life. Medical experts have described his spinal injury as the worst to occur in sport.

So there you have it. A young man with the world at his feet. Bright, hugely talented (he speaks five languages and had just embarked on a career in banking, after having earlier served a brief internship in travel retail with L’Oréal Produits de Luxe International in Paris), intelligent and a fine sportsman. Everything in his life has been turned upside down by what happened on 5 April.

I’ve been in contact with John a few times to see how we can help. Today I chatted with him while I stood watching my own young son Ali (aged 7) playing at Twickenham Rugby Club (no, not the Twickenham) outside London (the same club I used to play for, in Stuart Mangan’s old position of 10). What struck me, besides the desperate poignancy of the situation, was the courage of the Mangan family, the humanity that emerges in such situations (John told me life-affirming stories about the way people are stepping in to help) and the determination of Stuart to live a meaningful and positive life.

On our main website I have listed the details of the Stuart Mangan Trust. If you or anyone that you know can help this brave young son of Ireland with a donation please do so.