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Red hot Cormac McAnallen's brother says he laid foundations for the current Tyrone team

A glittering career lay ahead for the schoolteacher until he tragically died in his sleep from an undetected heart condition aged just 24.

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Cormac McAnallen, who sadly passed away in 2004

Cormac McAnallen, who sadly passed away in 2004

Cormac McAnallen, who sadly passed away in 2004

Donal McAnallen takes pride in the belief that his brother Cormac laid the foundations for the current successful Tyrone team.

Cormac McAnallen won two Ulster Championships and two National League titles with Tyrone before starring in the glorious 2003 All-Ireland final victory over Armagh.

A glittering career lay ahead for the schoolteacher until he tragically died in his sleep from an undetected heart condition aged just 24.

Tyrone last beat semi-final opponents Kerry in the 2005 All-Ireland Final and Donal envisioned his younger brother Cormac lifting the Sam Maguire that day.

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Brothers Cormac and Donal McAnallen celebrate Tyrone’s All Ireland win

Brothers Cormac and Donal McAnallen celebrate Tyrone’s All Ireland win

Brothers Cormac and Donal McAnallen celebrate Tyrone’s All Ireland win

While he reveals that time has taken the edge off his sense of loss and he does not attend as many games as he used to, he feels his brother's spirit endures in the current Tyrone team, who reached the All-Ireland final showdown in dramatic style yesterday.

"I do believe Cormac and his generation of Tyrone players had some input to the recent success of this generation of Tyrone players", Donal told the Sunday World.

"I mean that in the sense that the young Tyrone players of today have more confidence because of the foundations laid by Cormac's generation, and the legacy they left behind.

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Cormac McAnallen after Tyrone’s victory over Kerry in the 2003 All-Ireland semifinal, just seven months before his sudden death, and who is remembered by his brother Donal in a
new book, The Pursuit of Perfection. Photo: Sportsfile

Cormac McAnallen after Tyrone’s victory over Kerry in the 2003 All-Ireland semifinal, just seven months before his sudden death, and who is remembered by his brother Donal in a new book, The Pursuit of Perfection. Photo: Sportsfile

Cormac McAnallen after Tyrone’s victory over Kerry in the 2003 All-Ireland semifinal, just seven months before his sudden death, and who is remembered by his brother Donal in a new book, The Pursuit of Perfection. Photo: Sportsfile

"As time goes on, the emotions are not as raw. This is not a lament, you just have to come to terms with it and there comes a time when you have to move on.

"Watching the All-Ireland final between Tyrone and Kerry in 2005 (Tyrone won 1-16 to 2-10), I was left thinking - that could have been Cormac making the speech and lifting the Sam Maguire to the applause of the crowd, and that was somewhat cathartic.

"I still watch the games. I would have gone to all the games in the immediate aftermath of Cormac's passing, because in my mind it was still Cormac's team.

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"When your family is involved you're much more involved, but as the years unfold the team changes and your priorities change too.

"It's not the same as when your brother is the captain of the team. My parents would have attended all the county games dutifully for years after Cormac passed, and it wasn't that I couldn't or wouldn't go, just that I had other priorities.

"It's not traumatic for me to watch Tyrone games, that sense of poignancy and loss has passed with time, and it's a fair assumption that he wouldn't have been playing yesterday as he would have been 41.

"We have Conor McKenna from our club Eglish in the Tyrone squad, and I know the managers, Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan, so that keeps me attached.

"It's just good to see Tyrone doing well. Don't get me wrong, people were delighted to see Tyrone win the Ulster title to reach yesterday's semi-final, but people were also unsure whether this Tyrone team was the real deal.

"As for Kerry, well some people were doubting Dublin this year but nobody doubted Kerry, and remember, Tyrone conceded six goals to that Kerry side in the National League semi-final in June.

"I think there was a real rivalry between Tyrone and Kerry in the 2000s, and beating Kerry in the All-Ireland finals in 2005 and 2008 would have been a sore point for Kerry."

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