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Ulster GAA in shock as handball star Conall McCavitt fights for his life after hit-and-run in Armagh

Thoughts and prayers with one of the 'brightest young stars'

By Brett Campbell and Claire Williamson

A world handball star aged in his 20s is fighting for his life in a Northern Ireland hospital following a hit-and-run in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh.

Conall McCavitt was struck by a car on Cardinal O'Fiaich Square in the centre of the Co Armagh town shortly before 6.20am.

He was taken to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment for injuries that were described as serious.

Conall is part of the Eugene Quinn club in Armagh.

The GAA Handball community have expressed their shock at the news involving one of their "brightest young stars".

The vehicle did not stop, but police confirmed that a blue coloured Volkswagen Passat believed to have been involved in the incident had been recovered from the market area of the town.

The scene of the incident was subsequently closed and motorists were advised to seek alternative routes while police conducted an investigation into the incident. It only re-opened yesterday afternoon.

A 20-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday morning on suspicion of a number of motoring offences. He has been interviewed and released on police bail pending further enquiries.

National GAA Handball manager John Kelly said the community's thoughts are with Conall and his family.

He said in a statement: "The GAA Handball community were shocked to hear the news concerning one of our brightest young stars Conall McCavitt and our immediate thoughts at this time are with Conall and his family.

"Conall is one of the up and coming young stars in GAA Handball. As a former World Champion in 2012 at 17&Under level and having represented Ireland in 2012 and 2013 at World Games in Holland and Colombia he has a very bright future in the game particularly in the One Wall code.

"While he is a fierce competitor on the court, off the court Conall is a gentleman who is always available to help out and is a very popular figure in the Handball community.

"Our thoughts and prayers for a full recovery and those of the wider association both in Ireland and abroad are with Conall and his family at this time."

Slieve Gullion councillor Pete Byrne expressed his sympathy to the hit-and-run victim and his family.

"First of all, my thoughts are with the young fellow and his family, and I really hope he pulls through," he said.

The SDLP councillor told the Belfast Telegraph the area was an accident waiting to happen.

He said the square, which has numerous roads leading onto it, had been a major problem for the town.

"The speed that people drive around the square has been and continues to be a problem," he explained. "People drive like it's a race track at times.

"It was only a matter of time before something like this happened."

Mr Byrne said that councillors had met with police on numerous occasions about cars "rallying round the town" and to discuss the absence of officers at night-time.

"We raised the issue time and time again," councillor Byrne said.

"At night-time, this square can be a free-for-all because there is no police presence. It's a small rural town and the police station is not manned at night.

"It takes the police an hour or an hour-and-a-half to come. It's a nightmare."

"The speed at which people drive around the square, which has pubs and a hotel beside it, means that an accident was inevitable. The police say they are doing their best but they are stretched."

Police continue to appeal for anyone who was in the centre of Crossmaglen early yesterday morning and who witnessed the collision, or anyone with any information about the movements of the offending car or its occupants following the collision to contact officers in Newry on 101 quoting reference number 488 of 27/12/16. Information can also be passed anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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