Saturday 18 November 2017

Grieving Mum of GAA star Cormac McAnallen: ‘We had never heard of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome’

The wonderfully talented Tyrone footballer, Cormac McAnallen, who died prematurely. Photo: Brendan Moran.
The wonderfully talented Tyrone footballer, Cormac McAnallen, who died prematurely. Photo: Brendan Moran.

GAA star Cormac McAnallen was perhaps Ireland’s first high-profile victim of Sads.

A key member of Tyrone’s 2003 All-Ireland winning football team, the apparently healthy young man died at home months later at the age of 24.

His brother found him unresponsive in his bedroom in March 2004, sparking nationwide grief at the loss of the promising young sportsman.

“Cormac was revered throughout the country as one of the greatest Gaelic footballers of his time,” said then President Mary McAleese, while Tyrone boss Mickey Harte described him as “just a gem of a man”.

“We had never heard of Sads before,” his mother Bridget said last year.

“At that stage we weren’t aware that a young person who was very fit and healthy could die from a heart condition. Maybe with a 60-year-old there’s a possibility. At his age, definitely not.”

The family have been tireless in their efforts to raise awareness of sudden cardiac arrest through The Cormac Trust.

One of this year’s Operation Transformation contestants, Clare Scanlan, told how her 15-year-old son, Darra, died in December 2011.

He had gone to bed early on Sunday evening and she found him dead the next morning when she tried to wake him for school.

Like Cormac, Darra was a keen sportsman who played hurling and soccer and was a healthy teenager.

“That’s the cruelty of it, there was no indication,” said Clare.

In certain cases, Sads has been linked to a genetic disease, Brugada syndrome, which is characterised by abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG) findings.

Sufferers are at risk of developing fast heart rhythms which can cause weakness, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath and, in very rare cases, even death. Family members of people with the condition are advised to get screened.

The Family Heart Screening Clinic can be contacted on 01 803 4354.


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