Tuesday 15 October 2019

Seán Cox fund nears €1m as old rivals play part for worthy cause

Sean and Martina Cox.
Sean and Martina Cox.
Sean Cox
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The gap between Dublin and every other county arguably hit its peak last summer when they eased their way to a fourth successive All-Ireland title, encountering only spots of turbulence along the way.

Meath could make a case that their proximity to Tyrone in this year's first-round qualifier - they lost by a point after extra-time - puts them close to the chasing pack, but it's wishful thinking.

Never in the long history of their rivalry has the gap between as great between Meath and Dublin.

Consequently, apart from championship dates, they have managed to avoid each other for much of the decade as Meath remain rooted in Division 2 (they spent 2013 in Division Three) and Dublin operated at a different level.

Thus, Dublin visits to Navan have been few and far between in modern times with just a couple of O'Byrne Cup meetings to reflect on.


When they met last in 2015, 7,500 came out on a Sunday afternoon in January in anticipation of a home win but were left disappointed as a mixture of established and emerging Dublin stars prevailed by two points.

Five years earlier they met in an O'Byrne Cup quarter-final replay on a Wednesday night in Páirc Tailteann when close to 6,000 were present to see Meath snatch a late win.

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However great the gulf in respective standards may be, curiosity always seems to stir the Meath crowd on these occasions.

The organisers of tomorrow's senior football charity match between the counties, in aid of the Sean Cox Rehabilitation Fund, will be hoping that curiosity is still alive and that, coupled with the strength of the cause, will bring out a decent crowd.

Dublin's involvement in challenge games at any stage of the season has dipped in recent years and it's rare for them to get together at all like this.

But Sean, who sustained a severe brain injury in a vicious assault outside Anfield prior to Liverpool's Champions League game with Roma last May, has a club connection through both rival managers, having originally been a member of Round Towers in Clondalkin, Jim Gavin's home club, where he hurled while serving as the current treasurer and former chairman of Dunboyne, now Andy McEntee's club.

By midweek there were between 3,500 and 4,000 tickets, priced for adults at €20 and children at €5, sold but Fergus McNulty, chairman of Dunboyne GFC and one of the drivers of the fundraising effort, is confident that between 6,000 and 7,000 people will attend, helping to push the fund close to €1m.

It's still a long way off the €2m the committee has targeted and the €5m to €7m that they believe Sean and his family will need over the long term.

Sean has been in the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dún Laoghaire for almost three months now having spent much of the summer in Beaumount Hospital and has been making small "steps of progress", according to McNulty.

"He's not talking, but he does know you," said McNulty. "He can use an iPad, he watches a bit of golf.

"If you talk to him, he's aware of what is going on and, when something that happened in the past, like when we brought the cups (Keegan and Peter McDermott Cups for Dunboyne's SFC and JFC wins in Meath) into him, he definitely related to it."

By the end of March however, Sean's further recovery will have to be privately funded with a decision as to where that will continue still to be made.

"It's just a long process. Nobody is really sure where it will end up but the reality is he will definitely need care for the long-term, if not forever," said McNulty.

"We've been looking at what the best options are for him. Germany has been mentioned, there are a number of specialist centres in the UK, there are some options in Ireland but it wouldn't necessarily be at the specialist level.

"There is no continuation of Dún Laoghaire in Ireland. That's potentially the scenario that we have to consider.

"The medical professionals would assess him closer to the end of March. It may be bursts, do an intensive period and then maybe back for rest and go again."

The €1m mark is close to being reached after exhaustive fundraising efforts. An Irish Liverpool supporters group raised €84k, a community run took in €40k, an Anfield bucket collection raised €29k, which was matched by the Liverpool Foundation, while a coffee morning organised by Sean's employers, Precision Cables, won't be "insignificant", said McNulty.

Jersey days in schools, among other activities, have continuously added to the fund.

"But we can't keep going back to the community," advised McNulty.

Roma's €150,000 contribution has been widely acknowledged while discussions continue with Liverpool, according to McNulty.


"We'd be looking to get clarification on that sooner rather than later. Roma have been very engaged from the outset which is great, Liverpool are keen to help but we have to figure out what is best for Sean in that context.

"We know through research and from talking to people that for a man of Sean's age it's in the region of €5m to €7m when you look at road traffic accidents.

"That's around the provision of care, modifying the home, loss of income. That seems to be a figure for similar type of situations.

Sean's situation has had something of a galvanising effect around Dunboyne GFC with senior, junior and U-21 football titles completing an unprecedented treble.

"From my perspective, I think Sean's situation definitely brought some advantage. Even at a practical level Sean's son Jack has been a star man, he's pushed on significantly. I don't think they would have won it without him."

Dublin are expected to feature a number of their All-Ireland winning team for the match, which throws in at 1.30pm tomorrow.

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