When Tony McCormack was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, his instinctive thought was that death was fast approaching.
Fast forward eight years and Tony is captaining a winning side in a charity football game in aid of raising funds for cancer care units in St Luke’s and St James’s hospitals in Dublin.
The 65-year old Offaly has been looking forward to this day since last year when cancer survivors from throughout the GAA community gathered for the first time to take part in the Professor Hollywood Memorial Cup.
And Tony says that the primary objective of the tournament, is to remind people that there is a life after cancer:
I suppose the very word cancer frightens us all. But if a fella like me can still go out and pretend to play a game with these young lads, it shows that there is life and I’m hoping to be back again next year.
Tony’s battle with cancer forced him to confront several obstacles and in the infancy of his condition, the notion of receiving treatment took some convincing.
The only thing I envisaged when I was told I had cancer was that I’d be dead within a few months. And to be honest, I wasn’t going to get treatment only my children badgered me into it. I remember my daughter saying to me ‘Well as bad as you are, we’d like to have you for another while.’
The Professor Hollywood Memorial Cup features two teams of players representing the St Luke’s and St James’s hospitals. Tony is the resident goalkeeper on the St Luke’s side but when he was first invited to get involved for last year’s tournament, he couldn’t believe his luck.
‘Well to be honest, I thought someone was having a laugh at me. They would have known that I was a mad sort of a fella and that I’d be liable to do anything but I thought this was a little bit too far. When I realised that they were interested, I was absolutely thrilled.’
By his own admission, Tony was never much of a footballer and was mainly there ‘to put fellas out of the game.’ But his lack of skill doesn’t detract from his love of the sport and its contribution to his life.
Where would we without the GAA? And I’m not talking about the top brass, I’m talking about the fellas at grass roots. We live for this sport and it’s our whole lives. Even in times when things weren’t going well in the country, it was one thing that kept us going.
Tony’s journey to recovery is ongoing since suffering a relapse in 2014, seven years after his initial diagnosis. But this setback is noticeably minor, thanks to Tony’s positive disposition and the support of his family and his local club Kilcormac/Killoughey.
‘I’m still receiving treatment but I never lose any sleep over the cancer because I’m surrounded by great support from my family. The lads in Kilcormac/Kiloughey are brilliant as well because they motivate me to get out and not feel sorry for myself which I really appreciate because I don’t feel like an invalid.’