independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Tragedy on the field of play

HEARTS have gone out all over the country to the family of Philip McGuinness, who has died of an injury sustained while playing Gaelic football for his club team, Mohill. But the tragedy will be felt with particular poignancy in the county of Leitrim.

Philly was 26 years old. Most of them were good years. He grew up in the Celtic Tiger era, when Leitrim, once a byword for poverty and emigration, thrived. And although the housing collapse has affected the county more than almost any other, fewer young men and girls have been forced to emigrate than in the bad old days.

Philly had his football. He also had a job as a mechanical engineer. To reflect on the good things in his life may bring some small consolation to his family and friends when their present grief abates.

Nobody is to blame for the accident. And it has to be said that most discussion of how to prevent future tragedies must be largely futile.

Gaelic football is not a particularly dangerous sport. It is hardly reasonable to demand, for example, that footballers, like hurlers, should wear helmets. The more skilful the players, the safer the game. Dedicated coaches instil the virtues of safe and clean play, especially in the very young. Referees have grown more strict.

But there will always be accidents in the game, as in any other field sport.

That is little comfort for those who mourn Philly, but it is a fact of life which everybody must accept.

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