Connor McAliskey pays tribute to Tyrone team-mates after family tragedy
TYRONE forward Connor McAliskey has paid tribute to his Red Hand team-mates for helping his family through a difficult year as they gear up for a first All-Ireland final in 10 years.
Back in January, McAliskey’s brother-in-law Christopher ‘Crico’ Colhoun died just 24 hours after being admitted to hospital with a severe flu, plunging their family – and the entire GAA community – into shock.
Thirty-three-year-old ‘Crico’ was involved in Mickey Harte’s 2007 Tyrone panel for a time, but was best known as a stalwart of the Pomeroy Plunkett’s club.
And, although he played for a rival club, Clonoe sharpshooter McAliskey and his brother-in-law developed a strong bond away from the football field.
Read more: McAliskey’s sister Lisa Colhoun talks about the loss of her soul-mate, and how her late husband is smiling down on her, their two daughters Grace (2) and Beth (1), and Tyrone ahead of their date with destiny against Dublin.
Speaking in the aftermath of their dramatic semi-final win over Monaghan, McAliskey described how his Tyrone team-mates have rallied around him, while their run to Sunday’s All-Ireland final has helped his family “through a really hard time”.
“In January 2017 I was coming out of Cavan hospital, I had done my knee,” says the 26-year-old, recalling the cruciate ligament injury that ruled him out of the Red Hands’ campaign last year.
“Everyone was down in the dumps and we thought of how bad a situation I was in with the injury. Exactly a year later we were coming out of the Royal in Belfast and Christopher had passed away.
“It’s been a very difficult year for our family, and I said to the boys this is one thing that’s sort of getting them out. Lisa and Grace were in the stand today.
“I told them they don’t understand what they’re doing for my family, to help us through a really hard time. It’s been tough, but we’re getting there.
“We lived in the same housing estate. Every day you came home from work the two wee girls would’ve called in and we got very close. It was difficult, but he’s always here looking over us and driving us on.”
In May, Lisa Colhoun decided to honour her husband’s memory by running the Belfast marathon, and raised £60,000 for St Patrick's Primary School in Donaghmore, where ‘Crico’ had recently been appointed vice-principal.
More than 340 people joined her, many wearing a specially-made blue and black jersey with #CC23 printed on the back - Christopher's initials and his favourite number.
And McAliskey admits he couldn’t be more proud of his sister.
“I look up to her, she’s a real inspiration to me,” he added.
“It’s a very hard situation for us and I can’t dare dream of what she’s going through. She did the marathon, raised big money.
“She was finding it tough so she started doing a wee bit of writing on Facebook and Twitter – people are writing to her about how much that has helped them.
“It’s her own method of how she wants to express her feelings. I’m very proud of her.”