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GAA united behind little Sam

By Declan Bogue

They came in their thousands to help a worthy cause in Sam Bradley, the little boy with a rare form of cancer, who had his right kidney removed last week.

The game was last years' All-Ireland finalists Mayo against Fermanagh at Brewster Park on Saturday night in support of the 'Together for Sam' fund.

Mayo might have been eventual winners but nobody truly was concerned about results outside of those whose studs cut the turf on the night. Instead, this was about the GAA community coming together to help their own.

Sam's father is Colm Bradley, the former corner-forward for Fermanagh, and his mother is Michelle, from Kiltimagh in Mayo.

The sight of their two counties conjured up memories of the two famous All-Ireland semi-finals in 2004 they played against each other.

Back then, Colm was a central actor in that drama as one of the fastest forwards in the country, as Mayo eventually squeezed past. Those days are now gone, replaced by a different existence.

Nowadays, his life is about caring for his son. From 7am every morning, he requires medication on a four-hourly cycle. Looking after their newly-born baby Joshua also adds to the workload.

Between trips to the hospital, feeding and treatment, neither parent get to sit down to dinner each night until after 10pm.

"Everything has to be sorted around Sam because he has to have his medicines sorted and properly regulated" explained Colm. "The other young cub has fallen into line by now, looking to be fed every four hours, so one if feeding and one is doing medicines."

While they face this trial with stoicism, they have had help from all quarters as they aim to raise funds for what will be expensive medical treatment. Just last week Sam had his right kidney and adrenal gland removed, now he has a year's chemotherapy treatment ahead of him, with treatment abroad ahead.

A fortnight ago, the Fermanagh senior panel had been cultivating their facial hair, before getting rid of it in a mass shave. Their efforts were just one of the many fundraising initiatives.

The outpouring of help has caught Colm and Michelle (below with Joshua and Sam) by surprise, as Colm admits.

Talking about the Fermanagh players beard shave, he said: "They made the guts of £4,000. For them to go out off their own accord and do that was ... On hindsight, knowing a few of them, it shouldn't have surprised me because they are decent, decent fellas."

He admits to learning a lot in the recent past, and a great deal of perspective.

"It's a clichéd answer," he begins. "but you have no idea until something like this hits you. You are bumbling along, working hard, you have a kid, a wife that's pregnant, you are coaching a football team, working late two nights a week, you are out of the house a lot and you think that life is pretty much full and as stressful as it can get.

"Then this comes along and everything else just disappears; work, football, everything took a back seat."

Now, their family of three has become four and they have moved to Belfast in order to access treatment more readily.

"Your whole life now revolves around four-hourly shifts because you have to give Sam medicines every four hours," he adds.

"You synchronise when he needs to get them and your whole focus has changed. Small things become huge.

"We took the two boys into town this morning and that was ... You might as well have sent us to New York. Just two of us in around Belfast, pushing a buggy ... We bought him a toy and the young fella Jacob was quiet as a mouse."

He continues: "It's things that people would see as totally normal and perhaps even stressful – having two kids and bringing them into town was a big thing for us.

"I know Sam has to go back into hospital and how long he is going to be in there for – you don't know. How long will it take him to bounce back? And as soon as he bounces back he has to have more treatment so just the simple things in life you learn to appreciate."

After the match last weekend, a number of other fundraising initiatives will soon be announced.

Colm admits to becoming overwhelmed by the help offered.

"It's impossible to keep track of and I am in the process of handing it over to my brother for him to try and keep tabs of things down here in Fermanagh. Michelle's family are keeping tabs of things down in Mayo because we can't keep up with the requests. It's been astounding, really."

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the fund can do so at;

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