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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 08:26 GMT
GAA mourns McAnallen death
Cormac McAnallen celebrating All Ireland success last September
GAA was plunged into mourning with the sudden death of Tyrone county captain Cormac McAnallen.

The 24-year-old Armagh schoolteacher was found dead in his bed in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The Benburb-born McAnallen was a member of Tyrone's All-Ireland winning side last season when they defeated champions Armagh at Croke Park.

Findings of an initial post-mortem were inconclusive and the body was not released on Tuesday evening.

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte had made McAnallen captain following the injury to Peter Canavan.

Harte paid homage to a player whom he said was a role model for the sport.

''I'm still in a state of shock after hearing the news early this morning,'' said Harte.

He was just a gem of a man, and it's going to be very difficult to pick up the pieces
Tyrone manager
Mickey Harte
''It's simply unbelievable and no words could explain what has happened.

''He was such a good guy, a brilliant athlete and dedicated player.

''People use the term role model liberally, but for Cormac, he was that person.

''He had been captain of all our teams right through from minor, under-21 and now with Peter Canavan sidelined, the senior side.

''I was so delighted for him when he lifted the McKenna Cup recently, his first senior title as captain.

''He was such a gentleman and all our sympathies go out to his family. His maturity belied his years, and he was everything you would want in a young man. ''He was just a gem of a man, and it's going to be very difficult to pick up the pieces.''

Peter Canavan described McAnallen as a "great athlete".

"It's hard to believe that someone in such good shape can go so suddenly," said the former captain.

"He was getting better every year and had so much to offer.

1997: All Ireland Minor runner-up captain
1998: All Ireland Minor winning captain
2000: Sigerson Cup winner with Queen's
2001/2: All-Ireland U-21 winning captain
2001: Young Footballer of the Year
2002/3: National League winner
2003: All-Ireland winner and All Star

"He was so enthusiastic and so keen to learn and it was a great honour for me just to be able to play alongside him".

Canavan added the McAnallen was the "benchmark" for the entire Tyrone squad in terms of commitment and fitness.

"What Cormac tried to do, the other players tended to follow.

"Everybody knew from his early days that Cormac would become captain of the Tyrone senior team. Tyrone has lost a great leader."

McAnallen won every honour in the sport of GAA right through to the final glory of being a vital cog in Tyrone's Sam Maguire-winning side last September.

Earlier in his career he won All-Ireland minor and under-21 medals with Tyrone, and collected his first GAA All Star award last December.

McAnallen also represented Ireland against Australia in the International Rules Series last November.

He taught history and politics at St Catherine's College after graduating at Queen's University where he won Sigerson Cup honours back in the Millennium year.

His loss will be felt throughout the whole of the GAA community and beyond.

Tyrone's Allianz National Football League game against Cork at Omagh on Sunday has been postponed as a mark of respect.

BBC NI's Conor Macauley:
"Earlier in his career he won All-Ireland minor and under-21 medals with Tyrone"

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte
''His maturity belied his years, and he was a gem of a man''

Peter Canavan
"Tyrone has lost a great leader"

BBC's Jerome Quinn
"Cormac was a natural successor to Peter Canavan"

Remarkable life cut short
02 Mar 04  |  Gaelic Games
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