Twenty-nine years ago today Ruiari Og Cushendall lost one of its brightest prospects when John Darragh sadly passed away. John took unwell when playing for Cushendall against neighbours Glenariffe Oisins in an Under 16 North Antrim League game in Glenariffe and had to leave the field. He came back onto the pitch briefly after a short spell, but had to retire.
His mother Katleen knew there was something wrong and sent her other son Owen into the changing rooms to get him. She took him to the Waveney Hospital in Ballymena and initially everything seemed ok, but within two hours he was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and tragically died two days later on Monday 8th.
With the kind permission of his mother Kathleen I reproduce this tribute I wrote to John in the following week’s edition of the Ballymena Chronicle
John Darragh RIP
The tragic death last week of the young Ruairi Og star John Darragh was a great loss, not only to the his family and his club, but to the game of hurling in general.
In the few short years in which he graced our hurling fields he made quite an impression on those who saw him play, and last week the Gaels of Antrim and Ulster turned out in great number to bid him fond farewell.
It seemed that anyone who ever thrilled to the clash of the ash were deeply touched by this great tragedy, and on Wednesday evening when his remains were removed from his parent’s home in the beautiful townland of Maroo, they came in their hundreds to share in the family’s grief. The previous evening the new President of the GAA Peter Quinn had travelled up from Fermanagh to pay his last respects.
As the cortege made its way to St Mary’s church in Cushendall the heavens wept, as if in sympathy with those who mourned John’s passing. Every club in the county, and many from beyond its boundaries, were represented.
His former team-mates at Cross & Passion College Ballycastle, and from the Antrim Under 14 team with whom he played in the All Ireland tournament in Waterford last year, formed a guard of honour as his coffin was carried into the church.
They were there again on Thursday morning as Rev Fr. Anthony Meaney CC, Rev Fr Francis Park PP Cushendall and Rev Fr. Paddy Delargy, President of St McNissi’s College, celebrated Requim Mass. The beautiful singing of the choir from John’s school, Cross & Passion College added to a deeply moving ceremony. Mr Ciaran O’Neill, representing Central Council of the GAA, County Chairman Oliver Kelly, County Secretary Gerry Barry and North Antrim chairman Arthur Forsythe were just some of the many GAA officials who attended.
John Darragh was laid to rest in the maroon jersey of his native Cushendall, a jersey he wore with such distinction. Because he had only hurled at juvenile level there were many who did not have the pleasure of seeing John in action, but take it from those of us who did, and more importantly those who played with and against him, that he was a hurling talent of great promise. Sadly that promise is not now to be fulfilled.
To his school mates in Cross & Passion, to his team-mates on the Ruairi Og Under 16 team, who must now hurl on without their great leader, and especially to his mother Kathleen, father Malachy, brothers Owen and Aidan and sister Theresa we offer our sincere condolences.
The bright light of heaven to you Johnny boy!
Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam.