A south Armagh community has been left in a state of shock after a talented GAA player took seriously ill just days after collecting a second county title for his beloved Crossmaglen Rangers.
Ruairi O’Neill, 18, is currently critically ill in hospital after contracting a life-threatening illness.
The teenager – an Armagh county minor player – was a member of the victorious Rangers side who collected the U21 county title with a win over Silverbridge at the Athletic Grounds just eleven days ago.
He is pictured above with the championship trophy, which will go alongside the minor title he won a few months back. He is also part of the senior setup at the club.
A Crossmaglen Rangers spokesperson told Armagh I the club are rallying behind the O’Neill family at this difficult time.
“Ruairi is a vital part of our club and the community,” he said.
“We are offering the O’Neill family our full support at this time and we pray for a full and speedy recovery.
“The community has really rallied around and it goes to show the strength of the GAA family.”
His dad Kevin posted an update on social media on Monday thanking everyone for their “tremendous support”.
“May I start off by saying that our wee man is participating in the toughest match of his life,” he said.
“At the moment there is high intensity in play but we are hoping that Ruairi will stick one over the black spot soon with that left peg . Should this happen we hope it will be followed by another and then another and eventually going on to pick up that medal called life.
“We as a family are in complete awe of the tremendous support from our entire GAA family starting with Ruairi’s own beloved Rangers.
“Support has come from all quarters of Ruairi’s young life. His team mates, his uni lecturers, people from far and near.
“I had one message in particular which started “sorry to bother you……” . To this I say … any message of support to my family and I is not a bother it is a comfort just like all the calls all the enquiries and especially the organisation and participation in the prayer vigils for Ruairi in St Patricks church.
“To all can we wish you a peaceful Christmas and please keep praying for our wee man. Kevin, Gabrielle, Tara & Caoimhin. Thank you.”
Clubs from across the province have been sending their best wishes.
Ballinderry Shamrocks GAC posted: “We would like to wish Ruairi, a full speedy recovery. I’m sure him being a cross man, is not giving up that easily, without a fight!! Thoughts and prayers with him, club, family and friends at this difficult time. #GAAFamily
Culloville Blues GAC posted: “[We] extend our thoughts and prayers for Ruairi and wish him a speedy recovery. #gaafamily
Hundreds of messages of support have been pouring in for Ruairi the “winner, a fighter” and someone who has “never lost a battle, ever”.
Prayer vigils for Ruairi are being held nightly at St Patrick’s Church in Crossmaglen from 9.15pm.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Ruairi and his family at this time.