Belfast Telegraph

Family and clubs devastated after river search finds body of GAA player

Talented: Aodhan O’Donnell
Talented: Aodhan O’Donnell

By Gillian Halliday

Tributes have been paid to a talented GAA player from Co Londonderry after a body was recovered from the River Foyle yesterday.

Aodhan O'Donnell (19) had been missing since last Sunday evening and reports that a man had been spotted entering the river sparked a wide-scale missing person search by his loved ones.

The search was called off yesterday afternoon after a rescue crew was tasked with recovering a body from the river by the PSNI.

At the time of going to press the body had yet to be formally identified.

However, PSNI Foyle said that the death was not being treated as suspicious.

The police also thanked two rowers - who had been out on the water that morning - on Facebook for their assistance in the recovery operation.

Less than 24 hours earlier family members and friends had attended a vigil at the Foyle riverside on Thursday evening.

Mr O'Donnell is survived by his parents Gerry and Moira and siblings Sean and Ciara.

It is understood the inter-county hurler would have celebrated his 20th birthday on Tuesday.

Mr O'Donnell's clubs, Derry GAA and Na Magha CLG, said in separate statements yesterday that they had been left devastated by the news.

"Aodhan was a much valued team-mate and hurler at both club and county level and will be greatly missed," said Derry GAA.

"The thoughts and prayers of everyone connected with Derry GAA are with Aodhan's family, friends and club members at this difficult time."

Na Magha CLG thanked the public for its help with the searches which had taken place daily since Mr O'Donnell had been reported missing.

"The club and O'Donnell family would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming support in what has been a very challenging week," it said, adding funeral arrangements will be released in the coming days.

Fellow north west GAA club Eoghain Rua, based in Coleraine, also offered its sympathy to the family and Mr O'Donnell's respective clubs, saying via Twitter: "Our prayers are with you all at this time."

Meanwhile, a GAA club in Co Tyrone is rallying round the loved ones of a former player who is understood to be in a serious condition in hospital.

St Enda's GAA in Omagh held a prayer vigil for Barry Eccles in its clubrooms last night. The club said on its Facebook page that there had been an "outpouring of goodwill and kind messages from people across the world" in support of Mr Eccles, who the club said "remains critically ill".

It added it decided to invite club members, family and friends to the vigil because "in times of difficulty we all need the support of our friends".

A St Enda's representative declined to comment further on the circumstances when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday.

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