Football

Cormac McAnallen: ‘I think he would’ve captained Tyrone to ‘Sam’’ - Mickey Harte

Cormac McAnallen was only 24 when he suffered a fatal&nbsp;cardiac arrest during sport<br />Picture by Niall Carson
Cormac McAnallen was only 24 when he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest during sport
Picture by Niall Carson
Cormac McAnallen was only 24 when he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest during sport
Picture by Niall Carson

FORMER Tyrone manager Mickey Harte believes that the late Cormac McAnallen “could have become one of the best players ever to play the game.”

The Eglish man passed away suddenly just over 20 years ago, shortly after succeeding Peter Canavan to the Red Hand county’s captaincy.

Harte felt that Cormac could have completed an amazing treble by becoming the first person ever to skipper sides to All-Ireland Football titles at Minor, U21, and senior levels.

He had already achieved the first two elements before his life tragically ended on March 2, 2004, and his successor as Tyrone captain, Brian Dooher, did lift the Sam Maguire Cup in 2005 and again in 2008.

Such was his belief in McAnallen that he handed him the captain’s armband after Harte’s Errigal Ciaran clubmate Canavan had made the long-awaited breakthrough to win the senior crown in September 2003.

Mickey Harte, who managed Tyrone to their first All-Ireland SFC triumph in 2003.
Mickey Harte, who managed Tyrone to their first All-Ireland SFC triumph in 2003. Mickey Harte, who managed Tyrone to their first All-Ireland SFC triumph in 2003.

“Absolutely,” said Harte. “I had great time for the man from 17 on the first minor team of ‘97 that didn’t win, ‘98 yes and the two 21s.

“I had a wee goal for him and I think he would’ve done it: I think he would’ve been the only person to have lifted all three things.

“He had the first two got and maybe they are the hardest to get. I think he would’ve got the three of them.”

Cormac collected the McKenna Cup as Tyrone captain in early 2004, adding to his All-Ireland successes as Minor captain in 1998 and U21 leader in both 2000 and 2001, all of those with Harte as his boss.



Now Derry manager, Harte sounded emotional when recalling the pain of Cormac’s unexpected death, saying: “It is a day we will never forget. I have often wondered how Cormac could’ve developed into, what he would’ve been like.

“We knew he was special and he had achieved so much in his short life and I fear we all missed what he could’ve become.

“I think he could’ve become one of the best players ever to play the game.”

Besides his playing ability, first as a midfielder then filling the troublesome full back slot for Tyrone during that eventually triumphant 2003 campaign, Harte hailed Cormac’s leadership qualities:

“He took that on from the minors, right through the u-21s and when he took over the senior one [captaincy], I would’ve looked forward to see what he could do.”

Sadly Cormac’s life was cut short soon after his 24th birthday and Harte noted that he is missed by many people far and wide: “He was a great lad to have around the place and very mature for his age.

“He is such a loss to his family and the whole GAA world, particularly in Tyrone.”