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'Everyone looked up to him. He will be very sadly missed'

Niall Morgan paid tribute to Tyrone hurler Damian Casey following his tragic death last week.

Image: Tom Maher/INPHO

Updated Tue 5:01 PM

TYRONE GAA IS in mourning following the death of their hurling star Damian Casey. All-Ireland winner Niall Morgan has paid tribute to the county great, who he said was admired by the whole community.

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

“We actually got the news during club training on Friday night and a couple of boys had to sit out for five or ten minutes to digest it,” said Morgan.

“I’m Edendork, Dungannon is half a mile down the round. Same parish. We’d be in a similar area on nights out. 

“I wouldn’t say I was a big buddy and I’m not going to make it out that way, but obviously I knew him and speak to him on nights out. For such a high-profile person, I’ve never heard anyone have a bad word about him. No ego, nothing. Almost a protected species in Dungannon. Everyone looked up to him. He will be very sadly missed.” 

Casey died just weeks after playing a starring role in Tyrone’s Nicky Rackard Cup hurling title success. He scored 0-14 in that All-Ireland final triumph.

“Nobody can comprehend it,” Morgan explained.

“I think it is the unknown of everything. You realise how precise life is, you have a lad going to Spain to celebrate his friend’s wedding and not coming home. That is the stark reality of it. It is just extremely sad.

“We were supposed to go away for a wedding there and you just think, imagine going out and someone really close to you not coming back. It is scary to think about how things can happen. Extreme shock and sadness.” 

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Even though he was hurling in a football-obsessed county, Casey’s prowess was renowned. He started and scored in every one of Tyrone’s games since his debut ten years ago. 2021 All-Star Morgan said he would regularly avail of any opportunity to watch him in action. 

“I’d be the first to say I’m not massive into hurling, we’ve only four clubs in Tyrone. They are not linked with any of the football clubs. He was the one name you knew.

“Whenever the Tyrone hurlers were playing before us on any occasion, you went out because you knew he was on the pitch. You wanted to watch him. Extremely skilful, great physique and a big leader in the squad for many years.

“It is going to be tough times ahead for hurling in Tyrone.”

Niall Morgan was speaking at the launch of AIB’s new content series Drive as part of its sponsorship of the 2022 GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. 

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Maurice Brosnan

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