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‘If he hadn't got Covid, he’d be doing well – he had a good few years ahead of him’

Tyrone’s All-Ireland victory in 2021 was bittersweet for the Bell family, just months after super-fan Laurence passed away

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Laurence Bell (left) and his brother James at a Tyrone game. Laurence passed away last year.

Laurence Bell (left) and his brother James at a Tyrone game. Laurence passed away last year.

Laurence Bell (left) and his brother James at a Tyrone game. Laurence passed away last year.

LAURENCE Bell, from the village of Coagh, was a huge fan of the Tyrone gaelic football team.

For most of his adult life, he travelled to see the team play, be it rain or shine, League or Championship.

His brother James was always by his side. They were known by fans and ground staff as they rarely missed a game.

On February 11, 2021 – the same day as his wife Kathleen’s birthday – Laurence was admitted to hospital with coronavirus. Exactly a fortnight later, he passed away.

His daughter, Cathy Costello, said the hardest thing was not having people he knew and loved with him in hospital.

Cathy’s brother – Laurence’s son Declan – died seven months earlier from a heart attack. Restricted numbers were permitted at the wake and funeral.

Laurence was 81 years old, but fit and strong for his age.

His daughter Cathy believes “if he hadn’t got Covid, he’d be doing well – he had a good few years ahead of him”.

It was bittersweet for her family when Tyrone won the All-Ireland title last September.

James, who said he had considered “not going back to football” when Laurence passed, was persuaded to go to the final that day with a friend, but it was an emotional event for all.

Laurence’s other son, Conleth, has a poignant memory of his dad being at Tyrone’s winning All-Ireland final in 2008.

“After the game was over, he gave me a hug but there was a couple in front of us from Kerry with a young lad of about eight years old, and he was balling and crying.

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“My father leaned over and he said, ‘Listen, you will win many more. I might never see another one’.”

And sadly, he never did.


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