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Thursday 27 July 2017

Families devastated over crash deaths of sports-mad friends

Patricia McDonagh and Tom Shiel

POLICE in Australia were last night continuing inquiries into a tragic road crash that claimed the life of two friends -- one an inter-county hurler.

Mayo hurler Adrian Freeman, from Tooreen, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo; and Robert Twomey, from Ballahadigue, Listowel, Co Kerry, died after their car collided with another vehicle at 2.40pm on Saturday.

The incident happened on the Barwon Heads Road, in Connewarre -- an area near the city of Geelong, which is southwest of Melbourne.

Initial inquiries suggest they died after the car they were travelling in, a Toyota Camry, was struck by a car that had crossed over to the wrong side of the road.

Two other men, who were also in the car, had minor injuries.

The driver of the Volvo, a local woman in her 60s, was airlifted to the Royal Melbourne Hospital and is said to be in a critical condition.

Members of the Major Collision Investigation Unit attended the scene and said they were keen to speak to the driver of a red Holden Commodore, which overtook the Toyota prior to the incident.

A post mortem is being carried out on the two Irish men, but it is likely to be some days before the results are known and the bodies can be flown home.

The parents of Adrian (24), a talented hurler and footballer, were preparing yesterday to travel to Melbourne to bring their son's body home.

Friends and neighbours formed mournful, silent queues at the home of Seamus and Ita Freeman in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, last night to pay tribute to the qualified engineer.

Adrian, who is also survived by a brother, Cathal, and a sister, Louise, played for Tooreen Hurling Club, and had played for Mayo hurling team in last year's National League and in the Christy Ring Cup.

Two years ago, he was chosen to play in the Connacht hurling panel -- something that earned him the chance to travel to Dubai to play an inter-provincial final.

In October, he left for Australia to take a year out after he finished his studies at the University of Limerick.

He had intended to be back in Ireland by August to assist his hurling and football clubs in the county championships.

The reaction to his death in his home village was one of "heart-wrenching emptiness", according to Jackie Coyne, spokesman for Tooreen Hurling Club.

"Not only was Adrian a brilliant hurler and footballer but a true gentleman. He was highly thought of by everyone he played with and against," he said. "He was an unassuming lad and a quiet, gentle character, but when he put on his hurling jersey he was a demon on the field. He was a top-class performer."

Adrian also excelled in GAA football and led his team from Aghamore to win the intermediate championship. "He scored a goal and chipped the goalkeeper just like a top-class soccer striker," said Mr Coyne. "He was a natural in football as well as hurling."

His family had been steeped in the GAA tradition, with his father a dedicated hurler and his brother playing minor football with Mayo.

Shock

Clubmates of Adrian's in both football and hurling attended 11.30am Mass in Tooreen church yesterday, which was dedicated to the young sportsman.

Tooreen parish priest Canon James Kelly spoke of the unfillable void that Adrian's shock passing had left over a wide area and led prayers for his devastated family.

Adrian is believed to have been travelling to a football match with his friend Robert Twomey, when the crash occurred.

Both men had been living in Melbourne and it is believed they had met through work in the building trade.

Robert had emigrated to Australia two years ago to work as a carpenter, and tributes were paid last night to the "jovial and pleasant" 27-year-old.

His death is the second tragedy for the Twomey family in less than a decade.

Robert's father Jack died at age 62 seven years ago, leaving his mother Helen to raise four children. Robert, a dedicated sportsman, played for Clonmachon GAA football club before he left for a new life in Australia. His uncle, John Flaherty, represented Offaly in the All-Ireland football final in the 1980s.

"He emigrated to Australia around two years ago and came back on a brief holiday at Christmas," said Fine Gael councillor Tim Buckley. "He was a pleasant, jolly and jovial fellow. And he was actively involved in sport."

Yesterday prayers were said for Robert at 10am Mass at St Mary's Church in Listowel.

He is survived by his mother Helen; his brother John, who lives in London; brother Seamus; and sister Katherine.

Irish Independent

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