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Sister of Northern Ireland footballer Colm McKiernan killed by thunderbolt 'praying for Allens'

By Allan Preston

Published 09/06/2016

Tragedy: Colm McKiernan
Tragedy: Colm McKiernan

A Ballycastle woman who lost her footballing brother to a lightning strike nearly 25 years ago has said her thoughts and prayers are with the Allen family in Lisburn.

Colm McKiernan was only 21 when he was hit by lightning while living in America on July 22, 1988.

A talented and speedy winger who played for Leeds United, Cliftonville and Carrick Rangers, Colm's playing career was cut short by injury and he chose to move out to the United States.

An archive clipping from the Stamford Advocate news website recalls the accident.

It reads: "July 23, 1988: A 21-year-old Stamford man remained in a critical condition in a Bronx hospital after he was struck by lightning while playing soccer last week.

"Colm McKiernan, a member of the Stamford Gaelic football team, was playing with his team-mates at St Barnabus Drive Park in the Bronx when lightning struck the playing field.

"Several players were knocked to the ground, including McKiernan, who was the only one severely injured, said Jean Frasier, spokesman for Our Lady of Mercy Hospital.

"Members of the football team and other friends have been visiting regularly, said Mike Barron, owner of Burns' restaurant, an Irish pub on Hamilton Avenue in Stamford."

Sadly, Colm's injuries would leave him in a coma from which he would never recover.

A popular player at Belfast club Cliftonville, Reds fans rallied, contacting Leeds United for items they could sell to raise money for an air ambulance to bring him home. Tragically his condition failed to improve and he passed away on July 9, 1992.

George Allen is fighting for his life after being struck by lightning
George Allen is fighting for his life after being struck by lightning
Lisburn man George Allen who was struck by lightnening while walking his kids home from Killowen primary school
George with his wife Sharon
Lisburn man George Allen who was struck by lightning while walking his kids home from Killowen primary school
Police cordon off the scene
The PSNI at Killowen Primary School in Lisburn
George’s brother Jonathan Allen is informed of the tragedy by police
George’s brother Jonathan Allen is informed of the tragedy by police
Lisburn lightning strike: Man was collecting children from school when lightning hit. Photo: Pacemaker Press
Lisburn lightning strike: Man was collecting children from school when lightning hit. Photo: Pacemaker Press
Lisburn lightning strike: Man was collecting children from school when lightning hit. Photo: Pacemaker Press
Scene of the incident. Pic Richard Bradley (NI Duathlon)

To this day there is a plaque in his honour at Cliftonville's Solitude ground.

His sister Maura Harvey told the Belfast Telegraph when she heard the news "it was devastating at that time, it was unknown".

She added: "We didn't know of anybody else in that situation.

"It took three months to get him to Northern Ireland then he was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, then transferred to Coleraine Hospital before the decision was made to bring him home."

Ms Harvey remembers her brother as "vibrant, one of the lads, very outgoing and sporty."

"From the age of 12 to 13 he was into football big time as well as Gaelic and hurling," she said.

"It was very difficult for my mother and for my father who has since passed away."

After hearing about the injuries to George Allen and his children in Lisburn on Tuesday, Ms Harvey said that "my thoughts and prayers are with the family."

Colm McKiernan's cousin Harry McKiernan said he understood what the Allen family were going through.

"When the lightning storm started on Tuesday we were thinking of Colm," he said.

"It was very similar to what happened to those people in Lisburn. My thoughts go out to those people."

Cliftonville Supporters Club chief Liam Murray remembers Colm McKiernan well.

"Every time I hear about something like this happening I think of Colm, it's so random," he said.

"It's such a tragic story, a young man so fit and full of life. But these things just happen in life, you have no control over them."

Belfast Telegraph

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