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Kilcoo's Caelan McEvoy hailed as a shining example of GAA spirit

 

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Good day: Flanked by Kilcoo joint captains Conor Laverty (left) and Aidan Branagan, Caelan McEvoy holds the Ulster Club trophy

Good day: Flanked by Kilcoo joint captains Conor Laverty (left) and Aidan Branagan, Caelan McEvoy holds the Ulster Club trophy

�INPHO/Evan Logan

Good day: Flanked by Kilcoo joint captains Conor Laverty (left) and Aidan Branagan, Caelan McEvoy holds the Ulster Club trophy

This time last year, 23-year-old Caelan McEvoy was close to death as a protracted liver illness took a heavy toll on his body.

Prayers were being offered for the devoted Kilcoo clubman as expressions of hope and good wishes for his recovery poured in.

Almost miraculously, the tide turned and slowly but surely, Caelan improved to the extent that he had even hoped to resurrect his playing career.

But the illness had taken a toll on his body that ruled out a return to the playing arena and instead Caelan opted for a role as a volunteer with the Kilcoo team, performing a miscellany of duties ranging from water-carrier to assistant kit-man.

Such has been his enthusiasm, dedication and generosity of spirit in this role that when the GoldMark Millennium Volunteer presentation ceremony was organised at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Belfast, Caelan was invited along as a guest speaker.

The fervour, passion and pride he revealed in what was hailed as "a truly inspirational speech" by Ulster Council vice-chairman, Ciaran McLaughlin, saw Caelan accorded a standing ovation.

And his fervent message to young people to become involved as volunteers in their clubs has already elicited a healthy response.

"Caelan is a shining example of volunteerism, a young man who is a credit to his family and his club, Kilcoo," says McLaughlin.

"He epitomises all that is good in the GAA and he is setting the kind of example which others should seek to follow. For someone who has endured such a traumatic, long-term illness, he has shown remarkable fortitude and perseverance. He is a person who leaves a great impact on anyone with whom he comes into contact."

Caelan's playing career may have been cut short, yet his contribution to his club has been immense.

While more than 100 young people were presented with a GoldMark Millennium Volunteers Award for 50, 100 and 200 hours of volunteering, it was Caelan who left a lasting impact on his audience.

Ciaran McLaughlin, for one, is in no doubt that the Kilcoo clubman has a lot more to offer in the years ahead.

"The GAA is built on the support of our volunteers. There is a role for everyone, whether it be as a player, administrator or coach. Our clubs rely on the dedication and commitment of many volunteers to achieve on and off the field," states McLaughlin.

"Our young people make a major contribution to their clubs through their volunteering efforts. The energy and enthusiasm they bring are infectious and our clubs are all the better for having young people playing a full part. I think Caelan is a perfect example of this and it's no wonder that he is held in such high esteem. I thought that his speech at the awards ceremony was truly inspirational and could prove a further catalyst for other young people to take up the role of volunteers.

"I don't think they could have a better role model than Caelan."

Kilcoo PRO, Michael Kane, recalls how Caelan's fortitude and spirit stood him in good stead even in his darkest hours.

"He is a truly remarkable person, someone who now seeks only to do good for others. There is not a selfish bone in his body and he is a credit to his family who are, not surprisingly, part of the fabric of the Kilcoo club," points out Kane.

"Naturally, when we won the Ulster club championship for the first time last year, Caelan was over the moon. He was delighted to be involved in the celebrations in what was a seminal achievement for us.

"The fact that we have been trying for several years to get our hands on this particular piece of silverware and had failed made our success all the more sweeter and no one lapped up the occasion more than Caelan, who was beside himself with joy."

It was in the subsequent All-Ireland club semi-final against Dublin and Leinster champions, Ballyboden St Enda's, that Caelan's 20-year-old brother, Ryan, swept over a stunning point in the closing moments which helped to book the team's passage into the All-Ireland final against Corofin.

"Caelan took great pride in seeing the Kilcoo team take the field at Croke Park for that club final but it was not to be our day, unfortunately," says Kane, "But the memories will linger on and hopefully we will be back at Headquarters again in the not too distant future, with Caelan still part of our backroom team."

Belfast Telegraph