Northern Ireland news

Shock over death of All Ireland legend Eamonn Burns who was 'ambassador' for Down GAA

Eamonn Burns who died suddenly at the age of 56. Picture Seamus Loughran.

DOUBLE All-Ireland winner and former Down manager Eamonn Burns was last night described as a "true legend" whose contribution to club and county football would provide "a lifetime of happy memories to those fortunate enough to have seen him in action".

Friends and former team-mates spoke of their shock yesterday as they paid tribute following the news of his sudden death at the age of 56.

In a statement Down County Board said the world of Down GAA had been "rocked by the sad news".

As a midfielder Burns helped his county win two All Ireland titles in the 1990s and would go on the manage the team for a three-year spell before stepping down in summer 2018.

The sudden death of the father-of-two, a school teacher at Shimna Integrated in Newcastle, came just weeks after he attended a 25th anniversary event at Croke Park to mark the county's 1994 All Ireland success.

The highlight of his management career was leading his team to the 2017 Ulster final but he will be best remembered for his All-Ireland wins.

“Down GAA have been privileged to have Eamonn Burns amongst our sons, he gave us as supporters many magical moments, he brought a smile to our faces and in those days of 1991 and 1994 he helped bring us glory days," Down GAA said.

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"Eamonn has been taken from us too soon, we will miss you Eamonn but we will smile in the memory of the days that you gave us. You were a true son of Down."

Former Down manager Pete McGrath said people would be "shocked and saddened" by the death and would feel they had "lost a man who has contributed so much to Down football over this last quarter of a century."

His club, Bryansford, described him as "a true legend of both club and county".

South Down Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard, who knew Mr Burns, said he was "gutted" by the news.

"Eamonn was a stalwart of Down football when I was growing up watching the great All Ireland winning teams of the 90s and many people locally remember his gentle, polite nature with great fondness".

SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley said there was a "real sense of shock and sadness" at the untimely passing.

"Eamonn’s enormous contribution to his club and county will provide a lifetime of happy memories for all those fortunate enough to have witnessed him in action.

Mr Burns is survived by his wife Sinead, and sons Cathal and Thomas. He will be buried at St Patrick's Cemetery, Bryansford on Saturday following Requiem Mass at 11am in the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption.

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