Northern Ireland

Tributes after 'passionate' hurler (23) dies suddenly

Michael McQuillan (23) with his mother Margaret. There has been an outpouring of tributes after the GAA hurler passed away suddenly on Saturday.
Michael McQuillan (23) with his mother Margaret. There has been an outpouring of tributes after the GAA hurler passed away suddenly on Saturday.

A TALENTED GAA hurler has been remembered as having the "heart of a lion" following his sudden death at the age of 23.

Michael McQuillan, who played for the successful Co Derry club Eoghan Rua, passed away on Saturday at his family home in Portstewart.

Originally from Belfast and a former pupil of St Malachy's college, Michael and his older brother Joesph played for the Coleraine team from a young age.

Passionate about the game, he was also a GAA footballer and had a place on the Derry minors panel in his late teens.

It is understood he became suddenly ill on Saturday evening and paramedics were called.

His former Eoghan Rua coach, Joe Passmore, who knew him for over a decade, said the community was in "complete shock".

"Michael was incredibly popular, a real character who was full of devilment and fun. But he was also a real gentle soul from early on. From a young age, him and Joseph had a link with the club as their parents brought them up to watch matches. Everyone in the town knew him and he even worked in the local SuperValu," Mr Passmore said.

"He was very passionate about hurling but also enjoyed his footfall. Michael loved the club. He was small in stature but when he got onto the pitch he had the heart of a lion."

Eoghan Rua, which reached the All-Ireland junior hurling championship semi-final in February, posted a notice on social media yesterday afternoon paying tribute to the popular young man and spoke of their devastation at their clubmate's passing.

Michael, who played as a forward, was part of the victorious team who won the Derry and 2019 Ulster Junior Hurling titles last year.

"The Eoghan Rua community is in mourning following the sudden death of our dual player, Michael McQuillan," they said.

”We extend our deepest sympathy and heartfelt prayers to Michael's mother Margaret, father Paul and brother Joseph, on the loss of their beloved son and brother. May he rest in peace.

"An esteemed, popular and enthusiastic clubmate with a great sense of fun, 'Smicko' took a great pride in Eoghan Rua and he was a passionate hurler, playing his part in the club’s recent hurling campaigns in Ulster and the All-Ireland series.

”Michael will be sorely missed by his friends and clubmates. We offer our prayers and support to his family."

Tributes were also paid last night by his former University team, Ulster University Magee Hurling:

"A talented player, with great determination, heart and a never give up attitude. Smicko was a friend to everyone, with his infectious personality and an energetic sense of fun.

"We offer our prayers and support to his family at this time."