A GAA player who died in road crash last night has been hailed as a “true gentleman” who “epitomised all that is good” in the organisation.
Karl Heaney from the Warrenpoint area died after his car collided with another vehicle on the A1 between Banbridge and Dromore at around 11.30pm on Wednesday.
The 27-year-old, a teaching assistant at Aquinas Grammar School in Belfast, was a senior player at Newry Mitchels GFC.
The club paid tribute to Karl as a “dedicated Gael” and who was “devoted” to his family, friends and partner.
Down GAA secretary Sean Og McAteer told the News Letter that Karl had been travelling home from training last night when tragedy struck.
“He had been out injured and only returned to training,” he added.
“He was on his way back to Belfast when the accident happened.”
Describing Karl as a “great fella and a very popular young man”, Sean added: “He was planning on going to England next year to get a teaching qualification.
“Karl has been playing for Mitchels from U12 right through to senior level.
“The great thing about the GAA is that people stay with the club for life and it becomes a family.
“So this is like losing part of your family. We have 48 clubs in Down and within each of them family is key. People join a club and it is your club for life.
“His family are really good people and this has come as a big shock to the local GAA community. “
All club activities have been postponed as a mark of respect.
In a statement on Facebook, Newry Mitchels said they were “truly devastated and heartbroken” to learn of Karl’s death.
The club added: “Karl was a true gentlemen, who never had a bad word to say about anyone and always had a smile on his face. Always willing to help out in any capacity within the club, he epitomised all that is good in the GAA.
“Karl Heaney, a dedicated Gael, senior player for Newry Mitchels GFC, an avid Liverpool FC Fan, but most of all a devoted son, brother, uncle, friend and boyfriend of Ciara. He will missed by everyone who knew him within our club and far beyond and his loss will leave a huge void in the many lives he touched.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his parents, sisters, girlfriend Ciara and his wider family circle.”
Meanwhile, St Mary’s Youth Club in Newry has also spoken of its “deep sorrow” at Karl’s passing, describing him as a “lovely lad”.
It said: “St Mary’s youth club will be closed tonight, and trip postponed to next week as a mark of respect for the loss of our former member Karl Heaney and on behalf of his father Micky who is a member of our committee.”
Tributes were also paid to Karl on social media, with one person posting on Facebook: “Can’t believe what I’m hearing this morning. RIP Karl Heaney one of the nicest lads I’ve ever met. “Thoughts and prayers go out to Ciara and the whole family. Absolutely devastating.”Another posted: “Can’t believe it, terrible news. One of the nicest lads I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching.”
Police continue to appeal for anyone who was travelling on the A1 last night and who witnessed the collision or anyone who observed a black Kia Ceed or Red Kia Rio travelling on the A1 to contact local officers in Lurgan or the Collision Investigation Unit on 101 quoting reference 1643 23/05/18.