Crash victim Karl Heaney’s partner plans game to mark anniversary of his death
The girlfriend of road accident victim Karl Heaney is planning to keep his memory alive, one year on from the crash that claimed his life.
Karl (27) from Warrenpoint, had been travelling home from GAA training on a section of A1 carriageway between Banbridge and Dromore on May 23 last year when he was killed following a two-vehicle collision
Now, almost one year later, thanks to his girlfriend Ciara Sands (25), friends and former GAA colleagues will be taking to the pitch in a special fundraising charity match.
"It's been a tough year," Ciara admitted.
"It's a year we never thought we would have to go through."
This time last year, Ciara, from Newry, was planning to move with Karl to England, where he was to start a teaching course.
The couple had been together for almost four years and were planning to live in London.
Ciara is still living in Northern Ireland and fighting for road improvements along the dual carriageway to prevent anyone else having to go through the same experience.
"We never expected to face the things we've faced, to live through the feelings we've lived through and still live with," she said. "But what has kept us going is the campaigning for an upgrade to the A1 and organising events like this one in Karl's memory. And it's a great chance for all Karl's friends to come together again a year later and remember him as the fun loving, full of life man we all knew and loved.
"Karl loved his football and he loved everything about the Marvel universe, so it seemed right to try and combine them.
"Down will be playing Armagh in the Championship on May 19, so we thought it would be a great idea to bring some faces of the past together a day before that. We've called the teams the Armagh Avengers and the Down Defenders to bring a comic book theme to the event."
The Gaelic football match will be taking place at Ballyholland GFC, and Ciara is hoping to raise as much money as possible for two charities which have helped her and Karl's family over the past year.
"We'll be raising funds for Head Injury Support Newry and Road Safe NI Newry Mourne and Down Committee," said Ciara. "Head Injury Support have a support group locally which has given us a wonderful chance to meet people who are in a similar position to us.
"After losing Karl, his mother Monica joined me in supporting the road safety committee. That's really helped both of us know we're trying to do something positive in Karl's memory."
Ciara has been campaigning for upgrades to the A1 since Karl's death and remains hopeful she will be successful, despite the lack of a Stormont minister.
Thousands across the community signed up for Ciara's Facebook campaign "A1: How Many More Must Die?" when she launched it six months ago.
"The campaign has been great for us to be involved in," she said.
"Hopefully, if no-one has any objections, we can skip the need for a public inquiry and move to the financial side of the project.
"That's going to be hard, with no-one there at Stormont to help us, but we'd like to think common sense will prevail."
The match on Saturday, May 18 will feature ex-county players including Mickey Linden, Benny Coulter, Dan McCartan, Shane Mulholland, Ronan Murtagh, Steven McDonald, Ciaran McKeever and Justin McNulty.
"It means so much to us to see that Karl will not be forgotten."
For more details visit gofundme.com and search for Karl Heaney