Former longtime Branford field hockey coach Cathy McGuirk died on Monday. She was 76.
McGuirk, who coached at Branford for 41 seasons, had been battling ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, since last spring.
Former longtime boys and girls swimming coach John O’Connor said he spoke to Cathy’s husband John Monday evening.
“Cathy loved every kid she ever coached,” said O’Connor, who coached swimming for 45 seasons. “It went way beyond coaching with her. She was a special, special person.”
Former longtime Branford co-athletic director Jake Palluzzi said he and Sav Synodi, the other former AD, had seen McGuirk a couple of weeks back at the school.
“We hadn’t seen her for a long time. She had that big smile on her face,” Palluzzi said. “Those players, she treated them like they were her own kids. She always stayed in touch with as many of them as she could.”
McGuirk retired in January of 2018 with a 558-129-66-12 record, including 10 state championships in 14 finals’ appearances. She also won 17 regular-season league titles.
The Hornets reached the CIAC state tournament for 40 consecutive seasons under McGuirk.
“My life would look entirely different without Coach McGuirk,” said former co-captain Jenna Limone (2008-11), now an assistant coach herself at Branford. “Her support took me on a path that has led me to some of the most important people in my life. She’s the reason I decided to come back and coach at Branford.”
Last fall, Limone helped organize an event called MilesForMcGuirk, a virtual 5-kilometer, that raised approximately $17,000, the proceeds going toward ALS research.
“Coach McGuirk epitomized selflessness and unconditional love through her coaching,” Limone said.
McGuirk has been inducted into six different halls of fame, including ones for Branford Sports, the Connecticut High School Coaches Association and Connecticut Field Hockey. She was named National Coach of the Year in 1994.
John McGuirk coached alongside Cathy for most of her tenure.
Services are pending.