Mary Earley, the heartbroken widow of football legend and Irish Army chief of staff Dermot Earley, has re-lived the final days of the sporting hero in a new documentary.
She revealed that her husband died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a rapid degenerative brain disease, in June 2010 at the age of 62. The condition is also commonly referred to as mad cow disease.
"In the end he didn't know who he was or what he was. You had to bring him with you and mind him and steer him. That was the horrible part of it," she says of her husband, who was a lieutenant general in the army, a former GAA star and a father of six.
"I don't think I cried at his funeral," Mary Earley says on the RTE documentary “Cloch Le Carn,” which celebrates his life. "It comes later, and the reality of it sets in two months later and then you begin to think about it and you ask what happened."
Dermot Earley played inter-county football for Roscommon and was described as "the greatest footballer never to win an All-Ireland.” Less than two months before his death, he was presented with a distinguished service medal by Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen.
Earley retired from the Irish Defense Forces just weeks before his death.
"He knew something was happening, of course, and I think he was sad that he realized that this might be the last time that he would wear the uniform," reveals his son Dermot Junior, who is also a member of the Defense Forces and plays inter-county football for Kildare.
His military and sporting colleagues remember him as an inspirational figure.
"He himself was asked one time how he would like to be remembered," says Mary Earley. "He said, 'I would like to be remembered as a good man' and I think that would sum Dermot up."
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