Death of cricketer Phillip Hughes saddens Northern Ireland stars
One of Ireland's best known cricketers has told of being "shocked and saddened" over the death of his former opponent, Australian player Phillip Hughes, who died two days after being struck on the neck by a ball.
Warwickshire cricketer Boyd Rankin, who is from Londonderry, led the local reaction to news of the 25-year-old's death yesterday.
He said: "I'm shocked and saddened by the news about Phil Hughes this morning. Condolences to his family and close friends."
As the news spread across the world, former Ireland captain and Waringstown player Kyle McCallan simply said in a tweet: "Lost for words. RIP Phil Hughes."
Cliftonville Cricket Club in Belfast added: "Awful news about Phil Hughes. Should not happen playing the game you love..." as sports fans all over the world mourned the young batsman, who was fatally injured in a domestic game between South Australia and New South Wales.
The cricketer was well-known to UK fans as he also played for Hampshire, Middlesex and Worcestershire.
The international cricket family will rally round to make the sport safer in the wake of his tragic death, Andy Clement, chairman of the Northern Cricket Union, said last night. He passed on his sympathies to the South Australia player's family and team-mates, but said that despite the shock felt in the cricketing world about this "total freak accident", he believed that no sportsman or fan would want to change the game.
He added: "We are all in devastation about the news, local and international cricketers and fans alike, the entire cricket family.
"But sad as it is now, the sport will move on and perhaps be stronger for it.
"Everyone will rally round to try and minimise any opportunity that it might ever happen again. However, you can't legislate for this total freak accident and I don't think anyone would want the game changed. The experts will take a look and see where safety equipment could be improved if at all possible."
Belfast Instonians captain Neill Russell is an opening batsman like Hughes, and said he felt that no one in the cricketing family would be critical of the player who bowled what proved to be a fatal blow, Sean Abbott.
Russell said: "You know that when you go out to face fast bowlers there's a possibility of picking up a broken rib or broken finger but you don't ever feel that you are going to take your life in your hands to play the game you love.
"Your senses are always definitely fully heightened whenever you face fast bowling, and after this if I was to come up against another fast bowler, I would say that my senses would be even extra-heightened.
"This is an incredibly sad and scary incident and the entire cricket family worldwide is in a state of shock.
"But I really feel for Sean Abbott. There's no one in the world who would blame him in any way, he was just doing his job.
"In cricket we may go at each other in the middle, but off the field it's very much a big family."
However, he added that local bowlers rarely faced 90mph balls.