Belfast Telegraph

Car crash victim Niall O'Hanlon was 'heart and soul' of Down village

By Jane Scott

Tributes have been paid to a young footballer, described as "the heartbeat, life and soul" of his home village and football club, who died after being hit by a car.

Niall O'Hanlon (25), who lived at Heathers Close in Magheralin, played for the Co Down village's football team.

He was struck by a white coloured Skoda Octavia on the New Forge Road, close to the Steps Road junction at around 10.30pm on Friday night.

News of the tragedy has stunned the community who have rallied around his heartbroken parents, Phelim and Stephanie, and sister Shauneen.

On Saturday, family and friends gathered at the scene of the crash, close to Mr O'Hanlon's family home, to leave tributes including flowers and signed football tops.

A past pupil of St Patrick's Primary School in Magheralin, Mr O'Hanlon was fondly remembered by staff and pupils over the weekend. In a Facebook post, the school said: "We are saddened to learn of the sudden death of our past pupil Niall O'Hanlon.

"Niall is fondly remembered by his many St Patrick's PS connections. We ask you to keep all his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers at this very difficult time."

Dozens of people have taken to social media to pay tribute to the late footballer.

Mr O'Hanlon was a keen angler with the Lisburn-based Ivy Lodge Carp Fishery. His friend Tim Murphy wrote: "Niall O'Hanlon you were the life and soul of the party and a great angler to be around and always brightened up everyone's day especially at Ivy Lodge Carp Fishery and especially the charity BBQs! We will miss the craic we had together at the lake."

Magheralin Village FC secretary Billy Fyffe said the whole community had been left devastated.

"Niall really was our best friend. He was the heart and soul of the village and our football team. He was just such a genuinely lovely guy and no one had a bad word to say about him. His family, friends and the whole community just can't believe he's gone," he said.

In a social media tribute, the club said: "Niall was the apple of our club's eye. He was our wing wizard. The heartbeat of our team. Niall always had a joke to crack, a laugh to roar out and a smile to give. His infectious bubbly personality was the reason why everyone who knew him considered him a friend. It's hard knowing that Niall has been taken from us far too soon."

Tributes have also poured in from neighbouring football clubs including Donacloney FC and Knockmenagh Swifts in Craigavon, and Lurgan's Celtic FC and Lough Shore Athletic, while a minute's silence was observed at Saturday's Armagh Rovers v Roca Juniors game.

St Michael's GAC Magheralin, where Mr O'Hanlon was a former youth player, said his death was "a tragic loss of a young life".

DUP MLA for Upper Bann Carla Lockhart extended her sympathies to the O'Hanlon family, friends and the local community. She also commended those who gave assistance at the scene.

"The loss of a young life in such circumstances is tragic. My thoughts are with his family and friends. I would encourage anyone with any information to come forward to the PSNI and report it," she said.

UUP MLA Doug Beattie tweeted: "Awful news for his family and friends. My thoughts are with them at this sad time."

Police are appealing for anyone with information about the incident to get in touch.

A spokesman said anyone who may have dashcam footage of the collision should contact local officers in Lurgan or the Collision Investigation Unit on 101.

Mr O'Hanlon's funeral will take place tomorrow at the Church of St Patrick and Ronan's in Magheralin at 1.30pm, followed by interment afterwards in St Colman's Cemetery in Lurgan.

Belfast Telegraph

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