Prayers for GAA teen Ruairi O'Neill in meningitis coma as he fights for life
A young GAA player from Crossmaglen is in a coma fighting for his life in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital after contracting meningitis.
Less than two weeks ago, 18-year-old Ruairi O'Neill was the picture of health after winning his second county title for his team, Crossmaglen Rangers.
His father Kevin wrote on Facebook that his son was playing in the "toughest match of his life".
He urged friends to "please keep praying for our wee man".
A spokesman for the club said his home town was deeply shocked at his sudden illness.
"Ruairi is a talented young player and vital member of the Crossmaglen Rangers club," he said.
"The community in Crossmaglen is rallying round the family to provide whatever support we can.
"The thoughts and prayers of all our club members and the entire Crossmaglen community are very much with Ruairi and his family at this difficult time."
He continued: "We thank everyone from across the country and further afield who have sent messages and good wishes to Ruairi and his family and appreciate the tremendous support of the GAA family at this time.
"We are all praying for Ruairi's full and speedy recovery."
Among those showing their support to the family last night was Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Posting a picture on Twitter of Ruairi proudly holding his trophy he commented: "Thinking of Ruairi and wishing him the very best. God Bless."
Last night prayers for the popular teenager were held after a carol service in St Patrick's Chapel in Crossmaglen.
One friend commented on the Crossmaglen GAA club's Facebook page: "Hope he can hear us all at the sideline shouting 'Come on Bazzy, you can do it son'."
Another said: "You come from a great family and community who are all behind you, stay strong young man, you'll make it, God bless."
Hundreds of well-wishers on the Facebook page Hurling Banter passed on their support.
They added: "Keep fighting young man, all the hurling community are behind you and wishing you a speedy recovery.
"Everyone keep him in your prayers."
Friend Philip O'Connor said: "Anyone who knows anything about Gaelic games knows that they make them tough up in Crossmaglen, and he was born and raised in their ways.
"I'm sure I speak for us all when I say we wish Ruairi a speedy recovery."
Alan Brennan posted: "If he's as tough as his clubmates he'll beat it no problem. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family."
Diane McConnell, Deputy Chief Executive at Meningitis Research Foundation said: “We are saddened by this news and we’re here to support the family should they need anything.
"Christmas should be a happy occasion for families but sadly winter is the peak season for this life-threatening disease. We hope that Ruairi responds well to the treatment he’ll be given in hospital and we’ll be thinking of the family.”