Galway hurling star Niall Donohue (22) dies suddenly
TRAGIC hurling star Niall Donohue gave strong advice to underage players in his county to train even harder when things weren't going well - and they would be rewarded eventually.
The family of the Galway defender and the wider hurling community is today trying to come to terms with his death at the age of just 22.
In a player's profile piece for the Galway Hurling Supporters Club last year he had spoken of dream of winning an All-Ireland Senior title, admitting that it was his best motivator.
He also advised younger players to “train hard, even harder when things are going bad and you will get rewarded eventually.”
Niall was shortlisted for an All Star last year as Galway lost the All Ireland final replay to Kilkenny, but the team had a poor year in the season just ended.
Dessie Farrell, of the Gaelic Players Association said: "Like the entire GAA community, the Gaelic Players Association is in total shock following the tragic news of Niall Donohue’s untimely death.
"Niall’s passing is deeply distressing for everyone associated with him and we would urge anyone suffering distress to ensure that they seek help," he added.
Niall was found dead at his home in Kilbecanty outside Gort last night at around 7pm.
The funeral is not expected to take place for a few days - to allow for Niall's brother Shane to attend. He is currently travelling home from Australia. His sister Orla arrived home last night from Athlone.
Fr Patrick Callanan, the parish priest for Kilbeacanty told independent.ie this morning that the heartbreaking news was only filtering through the community last night, and Niall's father Francis is "devastated".
"I was there last night with the family. The father is devastated and the brother is coming home from Australia and his sister is in college in Athlone, and she just came home last night."
"They're only getting it together at this stage," he said.
"It's very tragic for the family and for all of his hurling members who played with him."
He said he expects that the local GAA club and the close-knit community will make a special tribute to the young sports star at the funeral.
"They are all very shocked. It only happened last night"
"They always do something here for a funeral especially for something like this."
Sadly Niall's mother died "around 17 or 18 years ago" following a cancer battle when Niall was very young, the parish priest said.
"It's very sad."
The young hurler had been an integral part of the Galway hurling team and played in the All-Ireland final last year. He had also helped the county secure glory in the 2011 Under 21's All-Ireland.
Speaking on behalf of the GAA, Presidentl Liam Ó Néill said: “It was with great regret that we learnt of the sad passing of Niall on Wednesday night.
“He carried himself with distinction on the field of play and was highly regarded as a promising hurler with a bright future.
“Our thoughts and prayers and those of the wider GAA membership are with his family and wide circle of friends at this most testing time.”
Pat Kearney, Galway Hurling Board Secretary said the entire community was devastated by the tragic death.
Mr Kearney, who was a fellow clubman of the late young hurler at Kilbeacanty - which is outside Gort - said the thoughts and prayers of the entire board and club went out to Niall's family and community.
“He was a very talented hurler who had a promising future ahead of him,” he said.
The young hurler, who played right wing back for the Galway senior team would have celebrated his 23rd birthday tomorrow.
Some of hurling's biggest names have reacted with shock to the young man's death.
"Awful to hear of the passing of Niall Donohue," Cork player Eoin Cadagan said on Twitter.
"At only 22 years of age another star of our games taken away tragically. May he rest in peace."
Limerick star Shane Dowling said he was "devastated" at the news, describing the young defender as "tough as nails" when he marked him in a game last year.
Donohue first came to national prominence when he was outstanding in the Galway team that won the Under-21 All Ireland title in 2011.
The following year he played in the senior All Ireland final and the replay, which Galway lost to Kilkenny - just months after defeating Kilkenny to claim the county's first ever Leinster title. He was short-listed for an All Star after a series of fine performances.
"He was a very talented hurler who had a promising future ahead of him," said Galway hurling secretary Pat Kearney, adding that the county was devastated at the news.
The young hurler had been part of the Galway team in this year's championship.
Former Galway manager and RTE pundit Cyril Farrell said south Galway would be "at a standstill" this weekend following the death of the popular young man
"He was a young, forceful, brilliant hurler... known as 'the man with the white helmet'." he sad.
"He had a wide range of friends all over... for a young man, everyone seems to have known him.
"He would be seen as someone for Gawlay to pin their hope on for future
"It’s unbelievable, i know it happens to a lot of families... but when it happens to one of your own... " he added.
In a statement issued by Galway GAA, the organisation said:
“Galway GAA is in shock with the news of the tragic, and untimely, death of Niall Donohue.
“On behalf of the entire Galway GAA community, at home and abroad, we extend our heartfelt sympathy to Niall’s family and especially his father Francis, brother Shane, sister Orla, uncles, aunts, and all his relatives.”
“We offer all our condolences also to the members of Niall’s club and Parish, Kilbeacanty, to his fellow inter-county panellists on the Galway hurling team, and to his many friends and colleagues.”
“Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a anam uasal dílis.”
His death has shocked many in and outside the GAA community with Niall Horan of One Direction among those saying his 'thoughts are with the Donohue family'.
If you have been affected by the tragic death of Niall Donoghue, there are a number of services and helplines available to you:
Console – National Helpline 1800 201 890
1 Life Suicide Helpline – 1800 247 100
Samaritans - 1850 60 90 90
Geraldine Gittens and Caroline Crawford