Northern Ireland

Cormac McAnallen: Trust set up in GAA star’s name blows ‘final whistle’ on work to highlight sudden adult deaths

The Cormac Trust was founded by the family of Cormac McAnallen following his death in 2004 at the age of 24

Cormac McAnallen
Cormac McAnallen, who died in March 204.

A charity set up to raise awareness of sudden cardiac deaths by the family of a young GAA player who lost his life due to a hidden heart condition has announced it is winding up ahead of the 20th anniversary of his passing.

The Cormac Trust was founded by loved ones of Tyrone GAA star Cormac McAnallen, who died on March 2, 2004.

The Brantry-raised footballer, who was part of the 2003 All-Ireland winning senior squad, died in his sleep, and in the years since his family through the trust have raised awareness of heart-related sudden adult deaths - particularly with young adults - throughout Ireland.

Cormac McAnallen pictured during the 2003 Ulster SFC game against Derry
Cormac McAnallen pictured during the 2003 Ulster SFC game against Derry.

To date, the charity has helped provide more than 300 life-saving defibrillators at clubs, schools and universities across Ireland, at a cost of over £200,000, raised over £180,000 for research, and trained around 2,500 volunteers in the use of CPR and defibrillator use.

In a statement on Sunday, the charity said the decision to cease its activities “is not an easy one”, but said the upcoming 20th anniversary of Cormac’s death was the right time to call the “final whistle”.

The decision follows the death of Cormac’s father Brendan McAnallen in 2022 at the age of 77, who was described as the one of the trust’s “constant pillars”. His work was bravely continued by his wife, Bridget, who had played a crucial role in the charity and its life-saving work since its founding.

Brendan McAnallen with his son Cormac and the Sigerson Cup on his graduation day at Queen's University in July 2000
Brendan McAnallen with his son Cormac and the Sigerson Cup on his graduation day at Queen's University in July 2000.

“Back in 2004, so little was known about Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome (SADS). News of the sudden death of Cormac and many others forced instant attention on pressing questions: how could seemingly healthy young people die without warning, and what could be done?” a trust spokesperson said.

“The need to form a charity to combat SADS, building on Cormac’s profile, was so evident that it took shape within months of his death. Club Tyrone and the GAA county board did much of the early groundwork, along with the McAnallen family, and fundraising efforts from the start demonstrated the huge goodwill and generosity of the public that enabled the Trust to make an instant impact.”

🔈*ANNOUNCEMENT* 📢📌 *THE CORMAC TRUST'S 'FINAL WHISTLE'* (pic : 28/02/2004) In this 20-year anniversary week, the...

Posted by The Cormac Trust on Sunday, 25 February 2024

The statement described the charity’s work as often “challenging”, adding: “Dealing with the deaths of young people through SADS is a particularly difficult and emotional task. And solutions to the problems are not always clear or within reach.

“With the passage of time, however, the burden falls more heavily on those involved throughout. The death of Brendan McAnallen, Cormac’s father, eighteen months ago, removed one of our constant pillars. And the fact that statutory and community bodies are now much better equipped than ever to counteract SADS is a positive development that reassures us that this is the best time to wind up.”

The trust said its legacy will carry on through the funding of an Irish Cardiac Society bursary for the future training of medical students.

Speaking to the Irish News, Bridget McAnallen said: “There have been so many individuals and organisations that have helped us, right from before the trust was founded, through the two decades of its work. It would be impossible to name them all, so we would just like to offer our heartfelt thanks for their valuable contribution and for the legacy they have helped leave with what the trust has achieved.”