McCloy hails ‘remarkable legacy’ of Cormac Trust

By Niall Gartland

THE impending closure of the Cormac Trust will be a moment of pronounced poignancy not only for the McAnallen family, but its chairperson, Kevin McCloy, the former Derry footballer whose life was saved as a result of a defibrillator donated by the charity.

It was officially announced last Sunday that the shutters are being closed on the charity that helped push SADS (Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome) into the public consciousness when it was set up in the aftermath of Cormac McAnallen’s death 20 years ago this week. The Cormac Trust was a volunteer-led operation that produced many tangible results, most strikingly in the provision of more than 300 defibrillators at clubs, schools and universities across Ireland.

Chairman of the Trust is Kevin McCloy, an All-Star winner with Derry whose life was irrevocably changed when he suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for his club Lavey back in 2014 in Owenbeg.

He was resuscitated thanks to an on-site defibrillator that had been donated to the grounds by the Cormac Trust, and after a month-long stint in Altnagelvin, was fitted with an defibrillator at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

While he hasn’t let it define his very existence – he maintains an active working life as a civil engineer that takes him around the country – his implanted defibrillator was called upon to save his life a further five times before he was eventually diagnosed with cardiac sarcoidosis, an inflammatory heart disease.

McCloy reached out to the McAnallen family following his initial cardiac arrest back in 2014, and it wasn’t long before he struck up a kinship with Cormac’s father Brendan and duly became involved with the Trust that had quite literally saved his life.

“I knew the defibrillator had been available because of the work of the Trust so I felt it was only right to thank the family.

“At the start I was just looking to give myself a bit of closure, but over time Brendan began to call me and he suggested becoming a trustee and I agreed.

“In hindsight I wasn’t in a very good head-space after what had happened, so talking to Brendan, Bridget and Dónal, who had been through it with Cormac, helped resolve a lot of the issues I had about what happened me and why.”

unyielding efforts

In recent years Kevin has sat as chairman of the Trust and he gives an insight into the progress that has been made in large part due to the unyielding efforts of its members.

“In my experience there’s very few, if any, GAA clubs in the North that don’t have a defibrillator at this stage, and now nearly every small business and community centre has one available outside its premises.

“Fundraising has been a big thing and we had a golf classic the other year that raised over £20,000. Cormac is such a big name around Tyrone that it makes it a lot easier when you rap people’s doors; you know everyone is going to be right behind you.

“We’ve had to make decisions about how the money could be used in the best possible way to find out what happened Cormac and other young people with SADS.”

Kevin became close personal friends of Brendan McAnallen, a prominent community activist, local historian and businessman who passed away in August 2022. The affinity between each other was absolute.

“Bridget and Brendan always talked openly about Cormac and what he achieved and held him in such great esteem, and if you couldn’t admire a man like Cormac McAnallen, then who could you admire?

“Brendan and I became close friends, we regularly had full-scale conversations about football and we also had a shared interest through our involvement with construction.

“Brendan was a big historian and he had a couple of old listed buildings where he tapped into my knowledge as a civil engineer.

“He always had various projects going on and I met him regularly to look at different things. When Brendan passed away, it left a big hole in the Trust and in my life. He was a figure that brought me through a lot of difficult times in the last ten years.”

The winding down of the Trust in the coming months represents the end of an era, but McCloy says it leaves behind a ‘remarkable legacy’ that will reverberate long into the future.

“It’s like anything, you want to go out at the top and that’s where the Trust is right now. You don’t want it to drag on and eventually find that it doesn’t have a purpose.

“I think it’s left behind a remarkable legacy and it feels like the right time to call a halt to it. It will leave a hole in myself and Bridget’s life but everyone can be proud of what it has achieved.”

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