Whole town turns out to grieve for tragic GAA star
AN ENTIRE town turned out last night to salute the remains of a tragic GAA star as he returned home.
Neighbours, friends and the wider GAA fraternity stood in tearful silence as the coffin of Philly McGuinness (26), from Mohill, Co Leitrim, was carried by family members into the house he had left on Saturday evening to play a club game along with his two brothers.
A lone piper led the hearse, flanked by Mohill club members and members of the Leitrim county board, through the main street that was lined with people.
The inspirational county footballer, who was described as "the engine of the Leitrim squad", sustained a head injury during a game between Mohill and Melvin Gaels. He never regained consciousness.
But last night, questions were being raised about the delay in getting an ambulance to the injured player.
Local councillor Enda Stenston said he was concerned that it had taken an ambulance 50 minutes to travel what should have been a five-minute journey to the pitch at Annaduff near Carrick-on-Shannon.
"It's five minutes, maximum, from the ambulance station at Carrick-on-Shannon. There is only one ambulance, so it was probably on call elsewhere -- but it seems incredible that it took so long. I will be raising the matter with the HSE when the funeral is over," he said.
After treatment at Sligo General Hospital, the injured player was transferred to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, where his life-support machine was turned off on Monday.
Matt Gaffney, a tutoring coach with Mohill GAA club, said the young player was "the engine of the Leitrim team".
He added that the young footballer "was so popular and well received everywhere he went".
This was evidenced by the scores of teammates and friends who attended his bedside in recent days and who accompanied his remains on the final sad journey home.
Thousands of tributes flooded on to two websites. Within hours of the Leitrim county board opening a book of condolence on its website, messages had been posted from more than 40 countries.
Leitrim diaspora and GAA supporters from as far afield as South Korea, Sudan and Singapore joined those from nearer home in expressing their sorrow and sympathies.
A tribute page on Facebook had received almost 4,000 posts from fans by last night.
"His short life was defined by decency, honesty, an inspiring tenacity and a gentle humility," wrote one fan.
"Philly assuredly wore the number 10, standing on the 40, on his way to the square, he'd go past backs like they weren't there."
"He was fit to kick points from near or far, 13 metres or 50 yards," wrote another.
The funeral of Philly McGuinness will take place at St Patrick's Church in Mohill tomorrow.