Wednesday 18 July 2018

You didn't need to know Graham to admire him

Graham Parkinson
Graham Parkinson
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

IT'S strange how the death of somebody you didn't know can stick in your head but when it's a 21-year-old who has been fighting cancer for several years, it's difficult for it not to.

I didn't know Graham Parkinson personally, but I know his story and the schoolboy football club he played for. Having beaten it twice, last week he finally lost his battle with cancer which had affected him for much of the last seven years. In the all-too-brief time that the cancer was in remission, as he had done before it came, he played for Belvedere and was among the toughest and most talented players that many in the Dublin club had seen.

"All through his battle with cancer, he showed similar characteristics to how he played on the pitch, he fought it right up until the end and did everything possible to get better," said Martin Cooke of Belvedere in an article by Jamie Moore on the club's website.

His last game for the club was an U-17 All-Ireland final against Carrigaline at Turner's Cross and he scored the decisive penalty in the shootout.

"He had been getting a lot of stick from a big Cork crowd for the whole game, and it was Graham who stepped up to take the last penalty," added Cooke. "If he scored, Belvo won.

"When he was walking up to the spot from the halfway line, there was a lot of screaming and shouting trying to put him off. But, of course, he scored and then gave the crowd a little wave before he celebrated with his team-mates. That sums him up perfectly. And his last touch for the club was to win that All- Ireland title."

In his early teens, he was diagnosed with a rare tumour in his lower back – malignant peripheral nerve sheath – and endured four years of treatment before being given the all-clear and returning to football and scoring that winner at Turner's Cross.

Last April, the cancer returned and, because treatment to shrink the tumour was only available in Germany, a Facebook page and website was set up to generate funding. Alongside his mother, Elaine, Graham spoke eloquently of his battle on TV3 last August. Charity football matches, white-collar boxing events and other fundraisers were organised as the good in him brought out the good in others.

He passed away last Wednesday and was laid to rest on Saturday after a service in a packed church. In that time, his Facebook page filled with messages and tributes for a person who you didn't have to know to admire. May he rest in peace.

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