STORIES have emerged from well-wishers touched by Lord of the Dance star Michael Flatley’s kindness over the years amid his battle with an aggressive cancer.
Shocked Corkonians who know the 64-year-old expressed support for him at an extremely difficult time for the family. It comes after a statement online detailed his battle to date.
It said: “Dear friends, we have something personal to share, Michael Flatley has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.
“He has undergone surgery and is in the care of an excellent team of doctors. No further comments will be made at this time.”
The shocking news comes almost three decades after the star shot to fame in the Irish dancing phenomenon Riverdance.
Many have since opened up about their experiences with him including John Looney from the Cork City Hospitals Children’s Club.
The Cork charity organises an annual festive event for deserving children coping with illness, bereavement, and trauma.
Mr Flatley had offered his support to the charity after bumping into two of their entertainers at a bar in Wilton.
Director of the charity, John Looney explained: “That year he gave us his Rolls-Royce — complete with his chauffeur — to drive some of the children from the hospital to the event at Fota House. He himself came in another car and brought his son Michael Jr, who was a baby at the time, to have breakfast with us at Fota House with the other volunteers.
“Afterwards, he posted me a handwritten letter talking about how much he enjoyed the day with us. For nine years after that, he gave us his Rolls-Royce for our Christmas event in Fota.”
Former subeditor and journalist with The Echo, Noel Welch who through his work became a dear friend of Mr Flatley’s also expressed his admiration for Flatley.
“This has taken a lot of people by surprise,” he said. “Hopefully, he can make a full recovery.”
Noel spoke of how he and Mr Flatley bonded through his work with this newspaper.
“The very first contact was when he purchased the house in Castlehyde, Fermoy. My initial introduction was walking down the avenue to meet him there.
“I was interviewing him about purchasing the house and we hit it off.”
He said his generosity knows no bounds.
“He flew me to Las Vegas to see Lord of the Dance and to watch the anniversary of the show a few years later. I was put up in a five-star hotel with everything paid for. It was a big deal for him to have the show premiere on the Las Vegas strip.
“However, the big occasion was attending the wedding in St Patrick’s Church Fermoy. When I asked him if I would be covering it for The Echo he said that he wasn’t inviting me as a journalist but as his guest. He didn’t mind me taking pictures on the day or covering the event. That’s just the kind of person he is.”
Meanwhile Fine Gael Councillor in Fermoy, Noel McCarthy said that Mr Flatley is in the thoughts and prayers of everyone in Fermoy.
“What Michael Flatley has contributed to the area is unbelievable. Only a couple of weeks ago he was visiting residents in Fermoy Hospital. He also gave a donation to first responders in Fermoy.
“Everyone in Fermoy was shocked to hear about his diagnosis and are sending their best wishes.”
Cork Penny Dinners director Caitríona Twomey, who was recently paid a visit by the star in the soup kitchen charity, also voiced her support.
“Michael has a real heart and a beautiful understanding of life-its ups and downs, its sorrows and joys,” Ms Twomey said. “He makes no judgement of the soul and is always grateful.”