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GAA referee escapes death after 'bizarre' wood shooting

A well-known GAA referee underwent life-saving surgery yesterday after a shooting incident in Co Waterford.

John Michael Kelly, who is in his mid- 50s, was shot in the stomach after approaching a vehicle he had seen parked in woodland between Knockanore and Tallow on the Cork-Waterford border.

Mr Kelly -- who is extremely well-known in west Waterford and east Cork GAA circles -- had been out for a walk when the shooting occurred shortly after 2pm yesterday.

He had been strolling in woodland when he spotted the 4X4-type vehicle parked well off the roadway.

As he approached to investigate, he suddenly heard a loud bang and felt a stinging pain in his stomach.

Mr Kelly had not apparently heard anyone shout or warn him before he was brutally shot.

When he looked down he was horrified to see blood pouring from his abdomen, and he realised he had been hit.

He managed to stumble from the scene until he reached a local roadway where he collapsed just as a neighbour was driving by.

Gardai stressed that it was quite possible that the coincidence of the neighbour driving by at precisely that time saved Mr Kelly's life.

"This is a very serious incident which could quite easily have had tragic consequences," a source said.

The neighbour raised the alarm and the injured man was immediately transferred to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

He underwent emergency surgery last night and, while his injuries are understood to be extensive, he is expected to make a full recovery.

Mr Kelly's shocked family were last night maintaining a vigil by his Cork hospital bedside.

Both Waterford and Cork GAA officials were horrified at the news of Mr Kelly's shooting.

Mr Kelly is regarded as one of the most experienced and highly respected GAA referees in Munster and is particularly well-known within both the east Cork and west Waterford divisional leagues. He is a lifelong member of the GAA.

Gardai are now hoping to conduct a full interview with Mr Kelly once he recovers sufficiently and is able to give a description of the vehicle involved.

Detectives examined the scene, but were unable to locate the vehicle at the centre of the mystery.

Gardai are now combing the woodland to try and locate casings from the weapon used in the shooting.

It was unclear last night what type of firearm was used in the shooting.

A full search is also under way for the 4x4 vehicle involved.

Gardai stressed that they were baffled over the incident, which they described as "totally bizarre" and without any apparent motive.

They are keeping an open mind about it, but one theory which is being examined is whether Mr Kelly may accidentally have stumbled across individuals engaged in illegal activity.

The area where the shooting took place is some distance from the main Tallow roadway -- and is not traditionally used for either off-road driving or rallying.


From Belfast Telegraph