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Recovering GAA star Ronan Clarke in tribute to crash victim

By John Campbell

Published 03/09/2015

Coach: Ronan Clarke
Coach: Ronan Clarke
Tragedy: Peter Hughes

A GAA player who almost died during a match has paid tribute to a young player he coached who was killed in a horrific car crash.

Pearse Og player Ronan Clarke suffered a serious injury when he hit his head off an upright during a game against Maghery last month.

He played on after treatment on the pitch but later became ill and was rushed to Craigavon Area Hospital where he remained in intensive care for several days.

He has now recovered sufficiently to be allowed home where he continues to make progress.

Clarke, who runs a gymnasium in Armagh, had just returned from his honeymoon in Malta with new wife Michelle immediately before the game.

Pearse Og meet Dromintee in the Armagh senior football championship on Saturday at Silverbridge - but Clarke will be more than happy to watch from the wings.

"I would love to be involved in the game of course but I'm just happy to be back at home and making headway. I'm very grateful for all the help I received from the medical people while I was in hospital and of course from my family and friends," he said.

Ronan is still devastated after the death of Dromintee player Peter Hughes, whom he had coached at Queen's University last year.

Peter died with his two friends, Conall Havern and Gavin Sloan, in an accident on the A1 near Banbridge on August 23.

"Peter was a fine young player and I had the pleasure of coaching him when he was part of the Queen's Freshers squad last year," said Clarke. "He looked to have a good career ahead of him in Gaelic football and his untimely death in such tragic circumstances came as a great shock to all of us.

"We all think we have problems and then when something as serious as this happens it puts things into perspective.

"Obviously Peter's loss is hugely felt by his family and friends and his club who face a big challenge this weekend. But everyone within that community has shown great spirit and courage following the tragedy and this should prove a big help in what will be a poignant occasion on Saturday as it is the first game the club will have played since Peter's death."

While there is no doubting Clarke's commitment to Pearse Og, his concern at the loss of young lives within the GAA fraternity of late is palpable.

"You had a situation in Croke Park on Sunday where the recent death of the Mayo minor star Darragh Doherty was marked in a very appropriate fashion by over 80,000 spectators," said Clarke.

"This surely helps to further bring home the message of how vulnerable we all are."

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