Madden in good heart for success
During a decade spent in the Antrim senior football team, Kevin Madden consistently emerged as top scorer in both National League and Championship matches.
It was while still a teenager in 1996 that Madden made his debut for the Saffrons, quickly deploying his artistic finishing skills to good effect.
But while recovering in hospital after sustaining a broken jaw during a match in 2000, Madden initially discovered that his playing career was under grave threat.
“The broken jaw was not such a big problem when doctors confirmed I had a leaking heart valve, a genetic condition. They went on to carry out surgery that enabled me to play on for another five years or so without any undue problems although they did inform me that I might require another operation further along the line,” explains Kevin.
Indeed, he was subsequently forced to shoulder two heavy setbacks within a year.
In 2005 he sustained a serious cruciate ligament injury while playing for his club Portglenone Casements and, after a protracted rehabilitation programme, it was while preparing to sample Ulster
Championship action with his county again in 2006 that he was advised by doctors to call time on his playing career.
In December 2007, Kevin again underwent heart surgery and his operation was filmed by TV cameras in connection with the special documentary ‘Superdoc’ which will be screened on BBC1 next Monday night (9.00).
And now, fit and athletic despite his medical history, Kevin finds himself hugely committed on not one but two fronts.
He has just launched a new company ‘Break for Ball’, the core business of which is to ensure that county and club squads maximise the opportunities presented on bonding weekends and training camps - and he is also urging all players to have regular health check-ups.
“Based on my own experience, I know the value of check-ups. It is always a shock initially to discover that things are not all that they should be with you but if remedial action can be taken in time, then you can always take the positives from that,” points out Kevin.
He has been pleasantly surprised at the level of interest being shown in his new company, too.
“It was really after talking to players from other clubs and counties that I came to the conclusion that maximum benefits are not actually being derived from such exercises.
“There are many aspects to preparation - psychological, fitness, dieting, stamina, team ethic appreciation are just some - and I feel that teams should be given the chance to make the most of their morale-building sessions.
“These can be expensive and I would like to think that I can offer teams an opportunity to make the most of their financial outlay,” stresses Kevin.
He may have set his saffron jersey aside but he still treasures the memories generated by his county career.
“I travelled a lot, made a number of friends and came to appreciate the special togetherness that epitomises a solid dressing-room. I would just love to think that I might be able to help others enjoy similar benefits,” adds Kevin.
Now 31, he will be tying the knot with Glengormley girl Maria Matthews in March.
“People are maybe surprised to hear this - they thought I was already married to football!” smiles Kevin.