Co Down hurler Pearce Branagan (23) dies suddenly from suspected heart attack
A CO Down GAA player who collapsed and died from a suspected heart attack on Saturday has been described as "an absolute gentleman" who was taken in "the prime of his life".
Tributes were paid last night to Clonduff GAC hurler Pearce Branagan (23) who died after suffering what his club said was a cardiac seizure.
It is understood the trainee teacher from Hilltown took ill while visiting his girlfriend Ellen McCrilly in the Listamlet area, near the Moy in Co Tyrone.
The Ambulance Service confirmed it received a 999 call at 5.32pm following reports that a young man had collapsed.
A spokesman said two rapid response paramedics and an accident and emergency ambulance and a doctor attended the incident.
“No-one was taken from the scene,” he said.
Mr Branagan's family are well known in GAA circles in Co Down.
His younger brother Lorcan also plays both football and hurling for Clonduff.
Club secretary Anita Brannigan described Mr Branagan as “a great young lad”.
“I like everybody in the community am just devastated,” she said.
“The club will be doing anything we can for the family and we will be opening up a book of condolences for anyone who wants to sign.”
Mr Branagan was part of the Clonduff team that recently won the Co Down seven-a-side hurling championship.
Former coach and teammate John Murphy described him as an “absolute gentleman”.
“It’s the biggest shock I ever had in my life, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
“Myself and everybody in the club is devastated for him and the wider family.”
Mr Branagan had been working as a temporary teacher at St Malachy’s Primary School in Kilcoo and had been awaiting news of permanent teaching job after applying recently for a post.
Principal Maura Mussen spoke of the shock felt by everyone at the school.
“Nothing was too much bother for Pearce, he would do anything for anyone and the children adored him,” she said.
“He was everything you want for a teacher.”
SDLP councillor Gillian Fitzpatrick said “It’s absolutely heart-breaking,” she said.
“He was just in the prime of his life, just starting out,” she said.
Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard said his thoughts are with his family.
Mr Branagan is survived by his father Tony, mother Terri, brothers Padraig, Lorcan and sister Caitlin.