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Heartbroken wife relives agonising final days of sporting hero

THE horrific death of football star and Army chief Dermot Earley has been described in graphic detail by his widow.

"In the end he didn't know who he was or what he was. You had to bring him with you and mind him and steer him. That was the horrible part of it," remembers Mary Earley speaking about her husband Dermot Snr, former Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces.

The army Lieutenant General died from a rapid degenerative brain disease -- Creutzfeldt-jakob disease (CJD) in June 2010 aged 62.

"I don't think I cried at his funeral," his wife says on a documentary which celebrates the life of the high-ranking army man, former GAA star and father-of-six. "it comes later and the reality of it sets in two months later and then you begin to think about it and you ask what happened."

Dermot Snr retired from the Defence Forces weeks before his death although he was not due to stand down until the following spring. Less than two months before his death, Dermot Snr, who had played inter-county football for Roscommon and was described as "the greatest footballer never to win an All-Ireland", was presented with the Distinguished Service Medal by Taoiseach Brian Cowen. It was his last public appearance.

"He knew something was happening, of course, and I think he was sad that he realised that this might be the last time that he would wear the uniform," reveals his son Dermot Jnr, who, like his late father, is a member of the Defence Forces and plays inter-county football for Kildare.

Speaking about his father's sporting prowess, Dermot Jnr says: "It was great to have someone who had done it and made the right decisions and was able to give me that knowledge so I was nothing but proud to have the name of Dermot Earley." He adds: "I would have spoken to him before matches and also after matches and he would always say, 'Well done, but just a couple of things,' and when he went and analysed the game and how I played, he was always right".

Both his military and sporting colleagues remember Dermot Snr as an inspirational figure and an impassioned orator who brought out the best in people. He was even suggested as a possible candidate for the Presidency. "He himself was asked one time how he would like to be remembered," says Mary. "and he said 'I would like to be remembered as a good man' and I think that would sum Dermot up."

'Cloch Le Carn' is on RTE 1 at 7.30pm tomorrow night

Sunday Independent