The following piece by Bridget Browne first appeared in The Irish World in December 2006
A friend to all
Ann McCann or "Stunning Dunning" as she was affectionately known, was a friend to all those with whom she came into contact during her tragically short life.
Whether it be on the training grounds with her club mates at Holloway Gaels, at work at the Whittington Hospital or just socialising, Ann had a smile and a kind word for everyone. In fact, as friends and acquaintances have recounted stories of their memories of Ann over the past weeks that is the one thing that has stood out - her continually smiley face and happy demeanour.
Ann first came to London on 1st March 1993 with her very good friend Joan McEvoy to begin their nursing training at the Whittington Hospital in Archway, North London. As they missed the whole Gaelic scene at home Ann and Joan decided to set up a ladies' football team. Never one for standing in the background Ann soon cajoled and persuaded, with her very own inimitable charm, friends and acquaintances to agree to take part in this ambitious project.
So began the Holloway Gaels and the club reached the London Junior Championship in1994 and 1995, and came very close in 1996 and again in 1997 before Ann finally captained the team to its first Championship win in 1998 with Tom "Tosh" Kilcommons at the managerial helm.
Ann continued to play with Holloway up until last year, winning a further two Junior Championship titles with Kenny Maleady in 2000 and again with Tosh in 2004. Ann was honoured with selection to the London panel during the 1999 season successfully wearing the number eight jersey.
Ann's mother Bridie loves to hear the stories of what her daughter was up to in London and had a few to tell herself. Sitting in Bridie's kitchen in Tullaghan in Mullingar the day after Ann's funeral she recounted the times as a child when Ann would get up on their pony bareback and gallop off through the fields without the aid of a reins or a rope - "Ann had no fear".
In school too, she was always up to mischief. Bridie was always getting calls from the Loretta school - "Mrs Dunning, we need to talk about Ann"!
Apart from her love of playing football, Ann also loved to watch it, particularly if her own county was involved. On the rare occasion that Westmeath found themselves in a Leinster final Ann went straight to the back of the cupboard to retrieve her coveted county jersey. Regardless of the fact that there was no other Westmeath supporter in the pub, Ann would be on her feet shouting and cheering every near miss and score throughout the game - it was impossible to embarrass her!
Ann had a huge circle of friends, many of them made through football and she kept in touch with all of them whether they were in Ireland, London, Australia (where she spent a couple of months partying with a number of Holloway cohorts), New Zealand, Canada or America. Once they went back home after their year or two of travelling, she was always the one who stayed in contact. She always remembered birthdays and anniversaries, and loved to send cards, and liked to receive them even more. She was Miss Organised with Christmas presents bought well in advance.
Of course, Ann did actually work as well! After completing her training in 1996 she continued to work at the Whittington hospital gradually working her way up the grades eventually becoming the Day Surgery Ward Manager.
The quality of patient care was very important to Ann and she used her nursing skills to make sure that the Day Care Unit became one of the most efficient and effective units around.
Ann was held in very high regard by all those she worked with from the nurses in her own unit to the registrars, consultants and doctors. Her friend Juliana said that a day didn’t go by when Ann didn’t have them all in stitches laughing.
Outside of football, Ann's two great loves were her family and her husband Denver. She first met Denver at a party in South London and when he asked her out she said she'd meet him at Holloway's next outing – a party in the Claddagh Ring. It didn't take Denver long to realise that where Ann went so did the Holloway Gaels!
Once Ann decided he was "the one" there was no going back. They were a perfect match and very much in love so it came as no surprise when they announced their engagement.
They married in Denver's home town of Durban in South Africa in April 2004 and the reception, in a sprawling and beautiful safari park was memorable. (The long distance trip didn’t prevent some past and present Holloway players from joining the party!)
She could light up a room with that mischievous twinkle in her eye, her smile and her sharp wit. When I was compiling this tribute to Ann I asked some of her friends how they would describe her and following are some of the many responses: loyal, affectionate, mischievous, honest, fun-loving, easy going, carefree, considerate, encouraging, generous, cheerful, hilarious, daring, chatty, thoughtful, vivacious, beautiful, inclusive, genuine, trustworthy, sociable, great craic, confident, determined, optimistic, sharp witted, hard working, dedicated, caring, attentive, sensitive and a great listener. There isn't enough room on this page to include all the platitudes Ann has so rightly earned. She loved life and lived every second to the full.
It came as a huge shock to everyone when Ann was diagnosed with Choriocarcinoma, an extremely rare and aggressive pregnancy-related cancer. As a tribute to Ann, Denver has set up a charity to help raise awareness and to aid research into this disease. Should you wish to contribute to this charity please log on to www.justgiving.com/StunningDunning.
On behalf of Holloway Gaels and Ann's many friends I would like to extend our deepest sympathy to Denver and their son, Jarrod, Ann's mother Bridie, sister Mary and brother Joe, and to Ann's extended family. May she rest in peace.
Ann McCann (Dunning)
12th September 1972 - 13th November 2006
Charity donations to : www.justgiving.com/StunningDunning