County Star Caoimhan McGovern who is receiving treatment for Stage 2 Lymphoma cancer and Declan McLoughlin who set up a ‘Shave or Dye’ fundraiser in his friend’s honour that attracted donations of almost €20,000 in just three day

Over €20k raised in support of county star battling cancer

The GAA community in Cavan and far beyond has rallied behind county footballing star Caoimhan McGovern in his courageous and ongoing fight against cancer.

Attracting support from all four corners of Ireland, the UK, and further afield, over €21,000 has been raised in just three days for the Sligo and Cavan Oncology day wards.

Caoimhan’s best friend and club teammate Declan McLoughlin is the person behind the fundraiser, which in addition to supporting a worthy cause, will also see dozens of the footballers friends commit to a ‘Shave or Dye’ challenge at the end.

From having around five signed up initially to take part, Declan now counts more than 40 on board, all eager to show their support for Caoimhan at this difficult time. “I text a few lads [Caoimhan] plays club and county with, and they text a few others, and the phone hasn’t stopped since. There are lads texting me the whole time now, looking to join in. It’s been incredible. But that’s the kind of person Caoimhan is, that people would want to do that for him.”

Caoimhan’s diagnosis of Stage 2 Lymphoma cancer is compounded by the fact his father Michael Anthony and his grandmother on his dad’s side, Nora, both died from cancer within months of each other in 2018.

The charities chosen by Caoimhan’s mother, Chrissie, continue to be of great support to the McGovern family.

“Their work and support can’t go unnoticed,” said Declan of staff at both local cancer units.

In possibly the most Cavan way of describing anyone, Declan says his friend Caoimhan is “just a pure sound, a civil sort of fella, you know?”

He laughs at the parochiality of what he’s just said, before atoning: “Ask anyone, [Caoimhan’s] the kind of lad who gets on with everyone. It would be hard to find someone with a bad word to say about him. It’s why it makes it so tough to see him, and his family going through this. He doesn’t deserve it. But it’s the way cancer is, it’s just scary. There isn’t a family in the country that doesn’t know someone who has had it, or even, passed away from it.”

Young Caoimhan has been a rising star on the football pitch at both club and county level for many years.

The Shannon Gael’s man was a member of the St Mogue’s Danske Bank Ward Cup final winning team in 2019, and followed this up with breakout years at senior level for Cavan.

It wasn’t long after Caoimhin celebrated his 19th birthday in July that he received his devastating diagnosis. It happened mere months after the gifted footballer set people’s chins wagging about the bright future of Cavan football when he started for Mickey Graham’s side and scored two impressive points against Fermanagh in the Allianz Football League Division 3 North.

Since then Caoimhin has been attending for treatment at Sligo University Hospital, with Declan saying: “It’s been hard on him and everyone who knows him. Knowing what he’s gone through, what the family have been through. We went to school together, St Mogue’s and Glan[gevlin], grew up together, I’ve known him all that time, which is why, when all this came about, we all felt we needed to do something for him.”

Along with another of Caoimhan’s friends, Ballyhaise’s Eoin Clarke, Declan has put himself up for a public vote on social media to determine his fate - Shave or Dye, and even what colour that might be.

“At the minute I’m getting pink, blues, purple, shave it all off, so I don’t know what I could be getting yet.”

Declan likes others, including Caoimhin’s mum Chrissie, is overwhelmed by the level of support shown.

“None of us can believe where the [tally] is now,” says Declan, recalling how, when the target of €5,000 was first set, there were a “few raised eye-brows”, even among Caoimhan’s family, with Chrissie suggesting the figure might be “a bit much”.

But Declan credits the success of the appeal down to the global GAA “family”, and how people are always quick to support one of their own at a time of need.

Caoimhin’s county teammate Oisin Kiernan earlier this year took part in the Late Late Show ‘Daffodil Day’ special where he opened up about his own recent personal battle with testicular cancer, and his return to footballing fold when playing a vital part in Cavan’s Ulster campaign, which saw the Breffni County seal a first provincial title since 1997.

“GAA is really just a big family,” says Declan. “When [Caoimhan] first got diagnosed, even the Down U20 manager messaged him to wish him well. It goes to show how much of a connection there is through GAA.”

The ‘Shave or Dye’ appeal will run for a further three weeks, when those opting for a close cut for colour change will be sharing their preference on social media on Wednesday, September 15.

* To donate, go to the gofundme page here.