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Monday 23 April 2018

Teen who died at sleepover a GAA star despite asthma

Jonathan in action for
Jonathan in action for Kilmacabea
Visitors pay their respects at Jonathan O’Regan's home in Leap, Co Cork, yesterday

Ralph Riegel and Majella O'Sullivan

A TEEN who collapsed and died during a sleepover had refused to allow his asthma to interfere with his sporting interests.

Jonathan O'Regan (14) died at a friend's house in west Cork on Wednesday.

Jonathan -- a talented GAA player with Kilmacabea juvenile club in Leap and Glandore -- collapsed suddenly after telling friends he was feeling unwell around 3am.

He was attending the sleepover party with some friends at a house in the village.

Emergency resuscitation was performed on Jonathan until paramedics arrived and rushed him to Bantry General Hospital.

Despite efforts by hospital doctors to stabilise Jonathan's condition, he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Yesterday, Jonathan's heartbroken mother Sheila McCarthy appealed for privacy while the family deals with its loss.

"We're just trying to get over the next few days and Jonathan's funeral," she told the Irish Independent.

A stream of mourners, including Jonathan's teammates and friends from Mount St Michael's secondary school in Rosscarbery, called to his home yesterday where the popular teen lay in repose.

Jonathan's former Kilmacabea GAA coach, Kevin O'Driscoll, said the 14-year old was the heart and soul of the juvenile club.

"He was the great character on the team," he said. "If there was ever any messing going on, you knew that Jonathan was going to be involved in it."

Mr O'Driscoll -- who was Jonathan's coach from U12 level -- said the youngster had never allowed his asthma to affect his sporting career.

"He always had his inhaler at training or by the sideline during matches. But he never let it stop him taking part," he added.


Jonathan was one of the stars of the Kilmacabea side that won the west Cork U14 championship last year.

He scored the winning goal in the final against local rivals Kilmeen -- and delivered an incredible 1-3 in a hard-fought semi-final win over Kilnamartyra.

"He always played corner-forward -- usually left corner-forward -- and he had a fantastic eye for goal," Mr O'Driscoll said.

"He had great courage for a player -- he was certainly a forward that no back was ever going to mess with."

A meeting was held on Wednesday night after Jonathan's remains were returned to Leap in an attempt to console his devastated teammates.

As a mark of respect to the O'Regan family, a west Cork U16 championship semi-final against Ilen Rovers was cancelled last night.

The Kilmacabea players were asked whether they wanted to withdraw from the entire championship -- but they have vowed to play on and win the title in Jonathan's memory.

"They want to win it now for Jonathan," said Mr O'Driscoll.

The tightknit community has been left stunned by the tragedy, and prayers were offered by Fr Pat O'Sullivan at Leap parish Mass yesterday morning.

Both Kilmacabea GAA club and Jonathan's third-year classmates will provide a guard of honour at Jonathan's funeral.

A post-mortem examination was conducted by assistant state pathologist Margaret Bolster for a full coroner's inquest which is expected to take place early next year.

The results of the post-mortem will not be released before the inquest but it is understood Jonathan suffered from asthma and a respiratory cause is suspected in his sudden death.

Gardai are treating the death as a tragedy.

Jonathan is survived by his parents Johnny Regan and Sheila McCarthy and his siblings Bryan, Lisa, Darragh, Conor, Caroline, Eli and Nicholas.

He will be buried after 2pm Requiem Mass at St Mary's Church in Leap today.

Mount St Michael's principal Bart Kerrisk said there were lots of tears and disbelief as students learnt of the tragedy.

"Our school community is in deep sorrow at the loss of our student, teammate and neighbour, Jonathan, and our hearts go out to his parents, family and friends," he said.

Irish Independent

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