Monday 20 January 2020

'Philip's homecoming is going to be a sad occasion in Ballyhooly' - Tragic J1 student passed away days after swimming accident

Philip Leahy
Philip Leahy

Sasha Brady & Louise Kelly

An Irish student has passed away several days after a tragic accident on his J-1 trip.

Philip Leahy (22) from Ballyhooly, Co Cork suffered an apparent cardiac arrest when he got into difficulty while swimming with his friends last Wednesday on a beach in Ocean City, Maryland.

His family had been keeping a vigil by his bedside at Atlantic General Hospital since news of the tragic accident broke until he passed away on Sunday night.

"This has been terribly sad since we heard about it last Wednesday evening, we have all been devastated," John O’Keeffe, PRO with Ballyhooly GAA told RTE Radio 1.

Last year, Philip captained his local GAA club to win their first ever Junior B Football title.

Mr O'Keeffe, who described Philip as a "jewel player", extended his sympathies to Philip's mother Ann, his brothers Patrick and William and the extended Leahy family.

"We're devastated by his loss, they're all in our prayers. His homecoming is going to be a sad occasion in Ballyhooly."

A prayer meeting for Philip held on Thursday evening on the GAA pitch gathered over 300 hundred people from the community. 

To cover his medical costs in the US, a GoFundMe account was set up, which had managed to raise €92,000 of its €80,000 goal in a matter of days.

Mr. O'Keeffe said that the response to the fundraiser went "beyond our expectations".

"It has amazed us really, we hope it can sort out his medical expenses which are usually very high in America," he said.  

Philip's college, Cork Institute of Technology, posted a tribute on the GoFundMe page to "a great student, friend, colleague and team-mate".

On Sunday, Pa O' Connor, the Ballyhooly GAA team goalkeeper told that Philip was the "most genuine and committed" player and that the community had been "devastated" by the accident.

He said Philip was "the first to turn up for training every week and has great heart. He's a real crowd favourite."

Philip had been in the US on his J1 visa since June and was due to return to CIT's sport department this autumn.

He had travelled to Ocean City with friends from college and had been working two jobs throughout the summer.

Local Fianna Fail councillor, Kevin O'Keeffe, said that Philip's death is a "terrible tragedy" and expressed his condolences for the family.

"His family was heavily involved in all aspects of the community, all sorts of activities and sports. He was well-liked around the area. It's a terrible tragedy," he said.

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