Belfast Telegraph

Crowd’s shock at collapse of GAA ref

By John Mulgrew

A spectator at a GAA game in which a referee had to be revived using a defibrillator has said hundreds of fans watched on in shock as he collapsed.

Crowds watched as Gabriel Tumelty collapsed during a senior Gaelic football match between Burren and Longstone at Pairc Esler in Newry on Sunday.

Ex-chairman of Longstone GAA, Hugh Rodgers, who was at the match on Sunday, said he saw Mr Tumelty suddenly collapse while running.

"The game was coming very close to the end and as he was running he fell flat on his face.

"I thought he had tripped but it became clear he was in grave danger. It became quickly apparent it was serious," he said.

"It took a few minutes for it to transfer through that it wasn't a broken ankle, and therefore it (the match) would be cancelled."

The 46-year-old from Ballykinler was treated on the pitch by medical staff at around 9pm. It is the second time in two weeks that the device has been used pitch-side in Northern Ireland.

As recently as last month a defibrillator was used on Chris McNeill (17), after he collapsed while playing in a Milk Cup match in Portstewart on July 25.

On Sunday medics from both teams as well as three doctors watching the game came to the referee's assistance when he collapsed during the last few minutes of injury time. One Burren team member who works as a dentist placed Mr Tumelty in the recovery position before the defibrillator was used to revive him.

He was rushed to nearby Daisy Hill Hospital before being transferred to Craigavon Area hospital yesterday afternoon where he is now in a stable condition.

Mr Rodgers said he didn't believe Mr Tumelty suffered from a serious health problem and added that referees at senior level would have a high degree of fitness.

The GAA launched an island-wide initiative to provide defibrillators at every county ground for use by trained personnel following the sudden deaths of several players due to heart failure.

In 2008 another GAA referee and councillor, Michael Cole, collapsed and died while refereeing a Down division one match between Ballyholland and Saval.

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