Shock as GAA star dies from accidental collision
A TALENTED young Gaelic footballer has lost his fight for life following an accidental collision on the pitch, with a senior county team mate last night describing his shock at the outcome of the innocuous challenge.
Philly McGuinness, from Mohill in Co Leitrim, never regained consciousness after sustaining a head injury when he accidentally came in contact with the knee of an opposing player in a league club match on Saturday evening.
The popular engineer was transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin but was pronounced dead yesterday evening, with his widowed mother Phil, and older brothers, Michael and Gerard at his bedside.
Fellow county player Colin Regan, who was also playing in the match between Mohill and Melvin Gaels in Annaduff, Co Leitrim, on Saturday evening, said the entire community was devastated by the tragedy.
"A cloud has descended over the whole county that goes way beyond the GAA," he said last night. "It was a pleasure to play with him.
"Philly played the game with great confidence and flair, both for his club and county."
Mr Regan added that at the time of the incident, no one realised the severity of his injury.
"We have seen clashes of heads and concussions before and we just assumed that was what happened and that he would be okay.
"How could you know that you could go out to play a football match on a nice April evening and it would end with the loss of a player," he said.
He said Philly was fun-loving and known by everyone as a real gentleman.
"He just had such a great lust for life," he said. "That came across in the way he played. His personality was so evident on the pitch."
He added that the 26-year-old's commitment to the game was obvious from the punishing schedule he had kept since he began working for Shell in west Mayo two years ago.
"Most people couldn't comprehend how he could do it," Mr Regan said. "He attended training sessions in Westmeath twice a week, which was a six-hour round trip, and came home on weekends.
"He played games in Waterford and Limerick and was still back in Mayo for Sunday night."
Throughout Sunday and Monday, friends and fans of the popular footballer lit candles as far away as Sydney and Canada as they prayed for a miracle recovery. A Facebook page doubled its membership throughout yesterday but by yesterday evening, prayers of hope had turned to heartbreaking messages of sympathy.
"Philly was a star both on and off the field, a gentleman who always gave his all," one friend, Lorna Mulligan posted.
"Leitrim has lost a legend. Mohill has lost a hero."
Local Independent councillor Enda Stenson, who is a personal family friend, said that gloom had descended on the county.
"No words of mine can give solace to his family. Philly was a genuine sportsman. He played with a smile on his face," he said.
In a statement issued last night, GAA president Christy Cooney described his death as untimely and tragic, and added the thoughts and prayers of the organisation were with the family.
Philly's late father, Michael, was named on the Leitrim 'Team of the Millennium', while his brothers John and Michael have both played extensively for club and county. All three were on the winning side when Mohill won the club championship four years ago.