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  • Writer's pictureStruan Hope

Second Chances: Matthew Bell's inspiring story of overcoming brain cancer and returning to hockey

On Friday 2nd February, Havelock Park was the venue for the launch of Second Chances, a remarkable memoir by Matthew Bell, an international hockey player who battled brain cancer and made an extraordinary comeback to the sport he loves. 

The event was hosted by Struan Hope, a friend and teammate of Matthew, who introduced the author and the guest speakers. Struan engaged with Matthew in an open and honest discussion about his illness and what it took mentally and physically to overcome the challenges he faced. They talked about the string of good luck that saved Matthew's life, from his manager being able to organise a next day MRI and personally knowing a world renowned neurosurgeon who would be able to operate, to the successful removal of the tumour and the recovery process. They also talked about Matthew's motivation to write the book, from hearing stories so similar to his own and his desire to repay the effort and kindness of the staff who helped him by donating a percentage of proceeds to their charity. 

One of the most touching moments of the event was when Matthew was talking about the importance of the wife of a close friend, Aoibhne Magee, and her impact on his recovery to the pitch. He said that she always encouraged him and believed in him and that she was one of the reasons he was able to play hockey again, and that he was grateful for her friendship. As he was speaking, Aoibhne got up onto the stage and hugged him, and the crowd gave a warm applause. It was a very emotional and heart warming scene, and a testament to the bond between Matthew and those close to him. 

The first guest to be brought onto the stage was Josh Moffett, a Men's 1s player and Matthew's best friend, who shared some anecdotes and insights into Matthew's personality and journey. Josh and Matthew have known each other since primary school and played together through the ranks of the club and age group international. Josh recalled the shock and disbelief he felt when he learned about Matthew's diagnosis, and how he visited him in hospital and supported him throughout his recovery. He spoke about his own experiences watching Matthew regain his strength, skills, and confidence, and how he was amazed by his determination and positive attitude. He praised Matthew's courage and the support and care he received from his family and friends, who never gave up on him. 

The second speaker was Mark Tumilty, the Ireland National Team Coach, who praised Matthew's talent, determination, and resilience. Mark was Matthew's coach at Bann and spoke about him coming up through the ranks of the club, initially as a left half where he struggled to make an impression, before moving to the centre where he flourished. Mark said that Matthew’s strengths lay in his proficiency of the basics, and that he was always eager to learn and improve. He also said that he inspired his teammates with his work ethic and passion. 

Matthew then thanked everyone for their support and attendance and answered questions from the audience. He also signed copies of his book and posed for photos with his key people from his recovery. 

Second Chances is a book that recounts Matthew's life-changing diagnosis of a life-threatening brain tumour while playing professionally in Germany. He faced multiple surgeries, the loss of basic human life skills, and a gruelling rehabilitation. He embarked on an arduous journey back to the pitch, overcoming physical and psychological hurdles, with the help of his family, friends, and an elite mentality. 

The book is more than a sports story. It is an inspiring testament to resilience, dreams, and the human spirit's ability to triumph over adversity. In the book, Matthew tells the story of his uplifting journey, and gives the reader the chance to find encouragement to conquer their own formidable obstacles. 

Second Chances is published by Excalibur Press and is available to buy from their website and on Amazon. It is a must-read for anyone who loves hockey, sports, or inspirational stories. 

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