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Empty classroom seat symbolises the heartbreak for a family school

By Brendan McDaid and Connla Young

The teacher of the 10-year-old boy who collapsed and died while playing Gaelic football last night spoke of the youngster's big ambition to play for the Tyrone county team when he grew up.

Patrick (Packie) Breen from the Dregish townland outside Drumquin told his teacher of his wish on Monday, the day before his tragic death.

Principal at Envagh Primary School Orla Duffy, who had also taught Patrick for the past three years, described her pupil as "the star" of the school's GAA team.

The young Tyrone boy had been training with the recently formed Michael Cusack's Under-13's team on Tuesday night when he collapsed on the pitch.

He was admitted to Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Police confirmed that a post-mortem to establish the cause of death is due to be carried out later today.

Mrs Duffy said staff and classmates at the small 25-pupil school had been stunned by what had happened.

"We are all absolutely devastated. We don't know what we are doing with ourselves," she said.

"We had a child sitting in our classroom in front of us and now there is an empty seat.

"We are feeling it because we are like a little family here, but that is nothing to what the Breen family must be going through."

Ms Duffy described Patrick as a child who was loved by everybody.

She added: "He was just a great, great child. He was mad about football. He played for Dregish and Drumquin combined teams and for our wee school; he was our star."

Ms Duffy said Patrick had told her he was looking forward to sitting his 11-plus transfer exam.

"He said on Monday he wanted to go to the Christian Brothers' school in Omagh," she said.

"He had hoped to then go on and play for the Tyrone GAA team."

Patrick's 12 classmates and the younger children from the school gathered yesterday morning at a special Mass to pray for him as shocked relatives and friends arrived at the remote Breen family home, to comfort Patrick's parents and five brothers and sisters.

The Breen family were last night too distraught to speak of Patrick's death.

However local priest Fr Colm O'Doherty said everyone in the community was shattered by what had happened.

"Neighbours, friends and relatives, everyone is just devastated," he said.

"It is such a sad day. Patrick was a very popular and able boy and a great lad for playing football. He died last night playing the game he loved.

"His mammy was telling me how he had come home and got his tea and then went off to train."

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte described Patrick's sudden passing as an " absolute tragedy".

Mr Harte said: "All we can do is pass on our condolences to his family and keep them in our prayers.

"It is a terrible tragedy for the family first and foremost, but the whole community feels it as well. When young people die playing the sport they love it is more poignant. We in the Tyrone team can identify with that.

"The GAA community will help the family. The GAA pulls together in adversity and this is adversity of the worst kind.

"We will all do what we can to help the family."

Dregish club secretary Liam Strain last night said the entire community is in shock at the tragic death.

He said: "People down here are totally numb. He has played with us since he was young and there was no reason to think anything was wrong."

Belfast Telegraph


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