Damien Casey: Community gathers with ‘heartbroken’ family to watch over star Tyrone Hurler Damien Casey

The family of tragic Tyrone hurler Damien Casey have said they are heartbroken.

Hundreds of people joined the emotional vigil with bereaved relatives in his home town of Dungannon on Sunday night.

A 29-year-old died in a swimming pool accident in Spain.

Damien played for the local Ioghan Ruad GAA club and for the Tyrone senior hurling team at the inter-county level.

He is considered one of the best bowlers in the county.

A statement from the Casey family was read out attentively.

He added: “The worst news our family has ever been imaginable, and our hearts are broken.

“Words cannot express how devastating the news of Damien’s death has been.

“We would like to thank everyone for their support from the local community and across the country.

“We ask that everyone avoid unnecessary speculation and that we as a family are given time and space to process what has happened.”

At the request of his family, those attending the 6 p.m. vigil wore GAA jerseys.

The flag was hoisted at half-mast in the club grounds.

A Hurley, Tyrone jersey and photographs were laid out on a table in memory of Mr. Casey’s life.

Teammate and friend Tiernan Morgan had tears in his eyes as he read Hurler’s prayer.

Another teammate, Conor Grogan, was also among the speakers.

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Vigilance was held at Dungannon Eghan Ruad Hurling Club for Tyrone Hurler Damien Casey following the tragic death. Photo by Declan Raufen / Press Eye

Earlier he had tweeted: “Rip Big Casey. A partner, friend and a leader. A cracking hurler but an even better companion. ,

Tyrone County President Michael Kerr said he was “a man who brought respect, joy and simple, straightforward happiness to our entire county, and beyond”.

“Damien Casey was a special gift to Tyrone and Hurling. We were rich for his presence and poor for his passing,” he said.

The Gaelic Players Association tweeted: “Devastated to the family and friends of player Damien Casey across Ireland and to everyone at Dungannon Hurling Club and Tyrone GAA.

“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.”

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.

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 brilliant player and one of the most prolific bowlers the Academy and Tyrone have ever produced. He represented with both grace and skill.”

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.

“A few 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 it’s repetition.

“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 is going over the bar.”