Damien Casey: ‘A wizard of rare skill’ – tributes paid to Tyrone Hurling star Damien Casey, who died in tragic swimming pool accident in Spain

Tributes have poured in after Tyrone Hurling star Damien Casey died in an accident in Spain.

Mr Casey (29) is understood to have traveled to a wedding where he was to be a groom.

He died after an accident in the swimming pool.

The Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust is now helping organize Mr Casey’s body for his return home from Spain.

The trust was established in 2013 by the family of Kevin Bell, of Newry, Ko Downs, after a 26-year-old was killed in a suspected hit-and-run incident in New York.

Since then, the charity has helped bring back the bodies of hundreds of Irish people who died overseas.

A spokesman for the trust said there were no details yet as to when Mr. Casey’s body would be returned home for burial as a post-mortem was being conducted today.

Damien Casey, considered Tyrone’s greatest bowler of all time, helped his home county to the Nicky Rackard Cup last month. He also played for Ioghan Rudh, Dungannon on behalf of the club.

The Gaelic Players Association said: “Damien stood out as a man and leader. On the pitch he was a magician of rare skill. He was one of us. He was the best of us.”

Announcing his death, Tyrone GAA said: “Heartbreak and grief can come in many forms, but are especially brutal when a young, talented, outgoing and prominent person in life suddenly dies.

“Accordingly, Gaelic Tyrone is utterly shaken by the news of Damien Casey’s tragic death, a supreme obstacle right now at the peak of his powers.”

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Damien Casey. credit: INPHO/Tommy Dixon

Mr Casey first lined up for Tyrone Seniors in 2012.

The full-forward started his county first game that season and surprisingly he started every game for Tyrone since then – a total of 100 outs.

In that context, Galway Hurling’s long-serving midfielder David Burke (32) will become his county’s record attendance maker with 63 outings when he plays against Cork later today.

Incredibly, Damien Casey scored in every single game in 100 appearances.

Tyrone County President Michael Kerr said: “This breaking news is beyond belief.

“Someone who brings respect, delight and simple, straightforward delight to our entire county, and has gone too far and is too hard to take.

“Hard days are ahead for Sean, Susan, Lewis and Katherine, for Damien’s wide family circle and many friends and colleagues, for his teammates, and for Gail of Dungannon and Tyrone.

“Our deepest sympathies are with them, and our focus should now be on providing the support and comfort that will be so badly needed.”

Tyrone GAA said: “Damien Casey was a special gift to Tyrone and Hurling. We were richer for his presence and poorer for his passing.”

On 21 May, Mr. Casey starred in the Nicky Rackard Cup Final at Croke Park as Tyrone beat Roscommon by five points. That day he scored 14 runs out of the team’s total 1-21.

He scored an impressive 1–12 in the semi-finals, which also earned him 400 championship points.

It was the second time he had won the trophy, captaining the first Tyrone side to lift it in 2014, when he scored eight points at Crocker against Fingal in what he described as an “inspirational” performance.

Overall the sharp-shooter scored 39 goals and 908 points for Tyrone in league and championship action – or 1,025 points – during his decade of service.

Mr Casey’s record has made him one of the nation’s deadliest forwards in recent years and his stats rival those of senior championship greats including Patrick Horgan of Cork, the record scorer at senior level.

In fact Horgan’s average per game is around 8.4, while Damien Casey’s was 10.01 as of his last outing.

Today, tributes poured in from the GAA world and beyond.

Mr. Casey Dungannon was a former player of the Clarks GAA club. His father is a former chairman of Sean Clarks.

A spokesman said: “Damien was a former player with Clark and was a hugely popular member of our club for many years, however it was as a hindrance that he really made a name for himself, being recognized as one of the best players ever. To always grace our ancient game.

“Over the years we have seen Damien give heroic performances for Tyrone and his club Ioghan Rudh, lighting up countless games with his skill, passion and leadership. We know how special he was to everyone at Ioghan Rudh And we express our deepest condolences to them.

“Damien was truly a champion, and conducted himself as one both on and off the pitch. He was loved and respected by everyone who knew him, and his passing was a tribute to our community. Terrible loss.”

He was an alumnus of St. Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon.

A statement from the school said: “We are saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Damien Casey RIP. Damien was a prolific player and one of the most prolific bowlers the Academy and Tyrone have ever produced. He represented both grace and skill.”

Sinn Féin MP Michelle Gilderneau said the Dungannon community is “heartbroken”: “about his devastated parents and sisters, his family and friends, his peers and all those who loved him.”

Dungannon councilor Barry Monteith said: “Damien was a great among us and Tyrone’s greatest bowler to date. We are honored to share his time with us at Dungannon and Tyrone.

Broadcaster Adrian Logan, who is from Dungannon, said, “He was a top-class hurler and a great lad. Everyone is clearly and utterly heartbroken, devastated and distraught.

“From celebrating victories at Croke Park to even here. He was such a good and good player as well as a great athlete.”

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph last month, Mr Casey said: “I want to play for Dungannon and Tyrone for the rest of my life.”

On his remarkable scoring record, he had said: “It’s about taking a deep breath, taking a step back from the ball and looking at the ball, taking a look at the positions. Take a couple steps forward, another two breaths. things like that.

“Opposition teams are going to shout slogans and roar, opposition fans are going to stand on your backs,” he said. But it’s about having that set routine, going through it every now and then and repeating it.

“It becomes natural, whether it is the first minute of the game or the 70th minute of the game. It should all be flowing and natural. And hopefully the ball will be going over the bar after that.”

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Damien Casey captained his county to his first Niki Rackard Cup success in 2014 with an inspiring performance in his stunning final victory over Fingale. photo: info