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Community gathers with ‘heartbroken’ family at vigil of star Tyrone hurler Damian Casey

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Vigil held at Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club for Tyrone hurler Damian Casey after tragic death. Photograph by Declan Roughen / Press Eye

Vigil held at Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club for Tyrone hurler Damian Casey after tragic death. Photograph by Declan Roughen / Press Eye

Vigil held at Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club for Tyrone hurler Damian Casey after tragic death. Photograph by Declan Roughen / Press Eye

Vigil held at Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club for Tyrone hurler Damian Casey after tragic death. Photograph by Declan Roughen / Press Eye

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Vigil held at Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club for Tyrone hurler Damian Casey after tragic death. Photograph by Declan Roughen / Press Eye

The family of tragic Tyrone hurler Damian Casey have said their hearts are broken.

Grieving relatives were joined by hundreds of people at an emotional vigil in his home town of Dungannon on Sunday night.

The 29-year-old died in a swimming pool accident in Spain.

Damian played for the local Eoghan Ruadh GAA club and at inter-county level for the Tyrone senior hurling team.

He is regarded as one of the county's best hurlers.

A statement from the Casey family was read at the vigil.

They said: “Our family has been hit with the worst news imaginable, and our hearts are broken.

“Words cannot express how devastating news of Damian’s death has been.

“We thank everyone for the support we are receiving from the local community and across the country.

“We ask that everyone avoids idle speculation and that we as a family are given time and space to process what has happened.”

At the request of his family, those attending the 6pm vigil wore GAA jerseys.

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A flag at the club grounds was flown at half mast.

Items commemorating Mr Casey’s life were placed on a table, including a hurley, Tyrone jersey and photographs.

Team-mate and friend Tiernan Morgan broke down in tears as he read the Hurler’s Prayer.

Another team-mate Conor Grogan was among those to speak at the vigil.

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Vigil held at Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club for Tyrone hurler Damian Casey after tragic death. Photograph by Declan Roughen / Press Eye

Vigil held at Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club for Tyrone hurler Damian Casey after tragic death. Photograph by Declan Roughen / Press Eye

Vigil held at Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh Hurling Club for Tyrone hurler Damian Casey after tragic death. Photograph by Declan Roughen / Press Eye

Earlier he Tweeted: “RIP big Casey. A Teammate, Friend and a Leader. A cracking Hurler but an even better fella.”

Tyrone county chairman Michael Kerr said he was “someone who brought honour, delight and simple, straightforward gladness to our whole county, and far beyond"

"Damian Casey was a special gift to Tyrone and to hurling. We were the richer for his presence and are the poorer for his passing,” he said.

The Gaelic Players Association tweeted: "Players across Ireland are devastated for the family and friends of Damian Casey and for all in Dungannon hurling club and Tyrone GAA.

"Damian stood out as a person and leader. On the pitch he was a magician of rare skill. He was one of us. He was among the best of us."

On May 21, Mr Casey starred as Tyrone beat Roscommon by five points in the Nicky Rackard Cup final at Croke Park. That day he racked-up 14 of the team’s total of 1-21.

In the semi-final he scored an impressive 1-12, which also brought him over the 400 championship points mark.

It was the second time he had won the trophy, having captained the first Tyrone side to lift it in 2014, when he delivered what was described as an "inspirational” performance, scoring eight points at Croker against Fingal.

In total the sharp-shooter racked up 39 goals and 908 points for Tyrone in league and championship action – or 1,025 points – during his decade of service.

Mr Casey’s record makes him one of the country’s most lethal forwards in recent years and his stats rival senior championship greats, including Cork’s Patrick Horgan who is the record scorer at senior level.

In fact Horgan’s point average per game stands at roughly 8.4 while, Damian Casey’s was 10.01 as of his last outing.

He was a former pupil of St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon.

A statement from the school said: “We are saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Damian Casey RIP. Damian was a terrific sportsman and the Academy and Tyrone's most prolific hurler. He represented both with grace and skill.”

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph last month, Mr Casey said: “I grew up wanting to play for Dungannon and Tyrone all my life.”

On his remarkable scoring record, he had said: “It’s about taking your deep breaths, taking a step back from the ball and having a look at the ball, taking a look at the posts.

"A couple of steps forward, another couple of breaths. Things like that.

“Opposition teams are going to be shouting and roaring, opposition fans are going to be on your back. But it is about having that set routine, going through it every time and it’s repetition then.

“It becomes natural, whether it’s the first minute of the game or the 70th minute of the game. It should all be flowing and natural.

"And hopefully the ball is going over the bar after.”



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