HURLING hero Shane O'Donnell has urged others to speak about their worries, following the tragic death of his cousin, Niall Donohue.
The teenage All-Ireland winner with Clare spoke of the devastating loss of the talented Galway hurling player, describing him as his "inspiration".
Shane (19) revealed that second cousin Niall was someone he had always admired.
The 22-year-old was found dead at his home in Kilbeacanty near Gort, Co Galway, on Wednesday evening.
He would have celebrated his 23rd birthday today. His heartbroken father, Francis, and sister, Orla, are now being comforted by friends and relatives as they await the return of Niall's brother, Shane, from Australia this evening.
Local Parish priest Fr Patrick Callanan said a sense of devastation had descended on the area.
Yesterday morning, O'Donnell paid tribute to the young man's short life and his prowess on the hurling field.
"I always looked up to him as my inspiration, like 'I can do that if he can' kind of thing," he told the Irish Independent.
"Niall is someone that I would really always look up to, because he was my second cousin. He was someone I saw in my family as someone who was not that distant. And he reached the pinnacle he did, playing on a senior team."
Speaking yesterday, the Clare player said it was hugely important for people to talk to others if they are feeling down or are worried.
"Everyone knows when they have something wrong and they know they can talk to people most times," he said.
Niall's brother Shane began his heartbreaking journey from Australia on Wednesday night, after learning of the tragedy.
"A few friends travelled with him, so he wasn't alone. It has been very hard on all the family," said local parish priest Fr Patrick Callanan.
Dessie Farrell, of the Gaelic Players' Association, last night urged anyone suffering distress to seek help. "Like the entire GAA community, the Gaelic Players' Association is in total shock following the tragic news of Niall Donohue's untimely death," he said.
"Niall's passing is deeply distressing for everyone associated with him and we would urge anyone suffering distress to ensure that they seek help."
The young defender was an integral part of the Galway senior hurling team and had a bright future ahead of him.
He was widely regarded as one of the best defensive talents to have emerged in Galway for many years and was described by pundits as having a "swashbuckling" style of hurling.
Niall first showed his promise as part of the Galway under-21 team, and in 2011 he helped them secure an All-Ireland victory.
His senior debut for Galway was against Dublin two years ago in the National Hurling League, where he scored a much-lauded point.
His excellent performances throughout the 2012 championship earned the young hurler an All Stars nomination.
The hurler will be laid to rest on Sunday after the funeral Mass at Kilbeacanty Church. The Galway county final between Loughrea and Portumna, which had been set for Sunday, has been postponed as a mark of respect. It will take place on Monday instead.
Members of the Kilbeacanty club met last night to remember Niall.
They will meet again tonight to support each other, said Pat Kearney, secretary of the Galway Hurling Board.
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Emma Jane Hade and Caroline Crawford