It’s days like Sunday that James Daly is relishing — the start of a new season and a chance to banish memories of a painful year.
Less than a week after masterminding a stunning Ulster title success for the Armagh girls, when they hammered Monaghan by nine points, his wife Ann died after an eight-year battle with cancer.
Eight days later, his father passed away; six weeks after that, Daly was told that there was a 90% chance his son Ryan had cancer.
After Armagh lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Cork, James quit the post, to support his 16-year-old son.
Daly recalled: “He had major surgery but it turned out that the tumour was benign. The tumour was growing from his oesophagus down into his stomach.
"He had major surgery in September — he lost a lot of weight and muscle because of it but he will get better and he will be okay. You have to get on with life. I’m saying that myself but it’s really not easy. I’m struggling with it every day.”
And yet, somehow, Daly managed to pull his emotions together to see out the remainder of the summer with Armagh.
He continued: “I stepped down after the Cork game. The reason for that was, (and) nobody knew it at time, but I thought Ryan had cancer.
“He had the surgery on September 25 and we found out two weeks later that the tumour was benign and that he was going to be okay. There was no way that my son was going to have cancer, dealing with different things and me running around the country with a football team.
"But as soon as I found out that Ryan was okay, I had the girls at my door and they wanted me to come back. I’m back and I’m loving it. It’s a great distraction.”
James is busy, too, organising a charity football match on October 3 — ‘All in for Ann’ — which will feature an Ulster selection against a Rest of Ireland team in Dromintee.
Daly said: “We’re raising money for Breast Cancer awareness and the Ulster Cancer foundation (now Cancer Focus Northern Ireland). They were two charities that Ann had raised money for herself over the years. “We’re trying to tie that in with the football, which she had a great passion for.”
Armagh, the Tesco Homegrown Division 3 champions last year, begin life in Division 2 next Sunday against their old Ulster rivals Donegal in Glenfin.
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