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Tributes to 'true gentleman who epitomised all that is good in the GAA'

Mr Heaney worked as a classroom assistant in Aquinas Grammar School on Ravenhill Road in south Belfast

A MAN killed in a road crash has been described as a "true gentleman, who epitomised all that is good in the GAA".

Karl Heaney (27) a senior player with Newry Mitchel's GAC, died in the crash on the A1 between Banbridge and Dromore at 11.30pm on Wednesday.

His silver Ford Fusion collided with a black Kia Ceed close to the junction of Halfway Road as he returned to Belfast after training in Newry.

It is understood that medics told his family that he "didn't have a chance" of survival.

A 32-year-old man, who was behind the wheel of the Ceed, and a 30-year-old woman, driving of a third car - a red Kia Rio - were last night in police custody "on suspicion of a number of motoring offences".

Mr Heaney worked as a classroom assistant in Aquinas Grammar School on the Ravenhill Road in south Belfast, and trained with nearby Bredagh GAC.

Chairman Malcolm Macfarlane extended the club's condolences to Mr Heaney's family.

Cormac Sweeney, chair of Newry Mitchel's said Mr Heaney would be "disastrously missed by everybody".

"He was one of the good guys," he said.

"It is numbing, we've just gone into shock. He was in the club since he was eight and played at every level from Under 10 on up. He was here week-in, week-out and would have been out helping other youngsters training as he progressed through.

"His PGCE (teaching qualification) was starting in September and he was really looking forward to it."

He said Mr Heaney was a favourite of everyone at the club.

"If you see his picture, that was him. Even when people annoyed him, he just seemed to rise above it."

Down secretary Sean Og McAteer said he was "a super fella from a really, really good family".

"It is a very difficult time for them," he added.

Brooklyn Shamrocks GFC, where Mr Heaney played in summer 2014, paid tribute to "the most happy, fun and easy-going fella ever to pull on a jersey for this club".

The "avid Liverpool fan" was looking forward to cheering his team on in the Champion's League on Saturday.

He was also involved in the annual Newry Mitchel's Tournament, with a Facebook post revealing they are "devastated" by the death of a "special person".

"Karl usually took the role of pitch manager every year. His calm presence and happy smile will be forever missed at the Newry Mitchel's Tournament."

Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin assembly member Conor Murphy paid tribute to "a dedicated Gael" who "touched the lives of many".

"It is a terrible tragedy and I want to pass on my condolences to his family."

St Mary's Youth Club Newry closed last night and postponed a trip next week "as a mark of respect for the loss of... such a lovely lad".

SDLP Upper Bann representative Dolores Kelly described it as "a profound tragedy".

Upper Bann DUP assembly member Carla Lockhart said the "tragic set of circumstances" were "a reminder of how dangerous our roads are".

Mr Heaney's friend Catherine McGovern wrote on Facebook she is "heartbroken and in total shock".

"Karl is simply one of the best people I have ever been lucky enough to know.

"He was my rock and my best friend for those student years in Belfast, I don't think I ever walked through Jordanstown without Karl being right beside me (that's when we decided to actually get on the bus and make it to class)."

Mr Heaney was described as a dedicated Gael

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