'True gentleman' | 

Brendan Óg Ó Dufaigh's teammates receive counselling after coming across crash that claimed captain's life

Just hours earlier, centre-half back Brendan (19), known affectionately as Ogie, had helped turn the tide for Monaghan as they battled back from a five-point-deficit to defeat Donegal at Brewster Park in Enniskillen.

Brendan Óg led his team to victory and was marked for greatness.

Patrick O'Connell

Team-mates of Monaghan ­Under-20s star Brendan Óg Ó Dufaigh were yesterday receiving counselling after coming on the scene of the two-car collision that claimed the life of their captain.

It's understood a number of Brendan's team-mates were travelling on the same road near Clontibret, Monaghan, at 11.30pm on Friday night, as they too made their way home from their victory over Donegal in the Ulster Championship Semi-Final.

Staff and players with the U20s are understood to have been among the first to arrive on the scene.

Just hours earlier, centre-half back Brendan (19), known affectionately as Ogie, had helped turn the tide for Monaghan as they battled back from a five-point-deficit to defeat Donegal at Brewster Park in Enniskillen.

A distraught Monaghan Harps chairman Jimmy Croarkin paid tribute to the Harps club-man whom he described as "a true ­gentleman" and a "massive talent."

"It's very raw," Mr Croarkin said. "He was just a true gentleman … so good with the kids in the club as well as the adults.

"GAA was his life and he threw everything at football. But he was also a huge link in our community. He was so talented.

"The Seniors had wanted him this year but he turned them down saying he was still too young but he had a massive, ­massive future with Monaghan GAA.

"And he was a fantastic person as well."

Mr Croarkin said the devastation felt by Brendan's county teammates was ­compounded by the fact a large number of the players had come on the scene as they made their way home.

"The whole team was on the road behind him," he said. "The team are receiving counselling today but this is very hard."

He extended his deepest sympathies to all Brendan's family and loved ones.

Brendan Og O'Dufaigh

Broadcaster and commentator with Northern Sound, Sean McCaffrey, who covered Friday night's game and spoke with Brendan afterwards, said it was difficult to sum up the devastation felt at going from "the incredible high of victory after the match to such heartbreak a short time later".

"Brendan, being the captain of the team, was the leader and when needs must, he stood up," Sean told the Sunday World.

"He'd that style of play, that although he played at centre half back, he was the one who'd drive forward and win the ball.

"And in the second half, when Monaghan got control of the game, it was Brendan who on numerous occasion was going in, winning the ball, forcing the turn-overs and driving forward.

"You could see that when he went forward it was lifting everybody on the team. And I remarked on that numerous times during the game.

"He was just an out and out leader and he carried that through in every game.

"I was speaking to him in the car park after the game for about 20 minutes just from a social and friendly point of view. And you should have seen the buzz and excitement in him as he looked forward to playing in the Ulster Final.

"He was full of the joys of the world after an incredible game of football and looking forward so much to leading his team into the Ulster Final.

"It was something he had already done with the Minors, he was the Minor captain in 2018 when he led them to victory in Ulster, and here he was now about to do it again with the Under-20s."

Asked whether Brendan was a Monaghan Senior captain in the making, Sean said he had no doubt but that he was.

"He had such a mature head on young shoulders," he said.

"He wasn't getting carried away with what they had already achieved, he was already looking forward.

"He was planning, he was finding out about the opposition, and asking if there was anything they needed to know.

"And there was something else about Brendan as well, no matter where you came across him, walking down a street or away from the field of play, he'd always have a friendly word and loved to stop and have a chat."

In a statement issued by Monaghan Harps yesterday, the club said: "Our club is devastated at the news of the untimely death of our senior player and county Under-20 captain Brendan Óg Ó Dufaigh.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this very sad time. All club activity has been postponed until further notice."

All other underage matches in Monaghan were also cancelled as a mark of respect.

Monaghan GAA said yesterday it was "deeply saddened" at the tragic passing of Brendan.

"We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Brendan Óg's family, his father Brendan, his mother ­Esther and his sisters Claire and Áine and to his friends, his teammates and his club Monaghan Harps," a statement from the club said.

Former Irish international rugby player Tommy Bowe, who is from Co Monaghan, said it was "heartbreaking news" to hear of the young footballer's death.

"Sending my deepest condolences to his family and friends," he said.

County boards and GAA clubs across the country also expressed their sympathies yesterday.

It's understood that prior to the Donegal Under-20s clash, Brendan had parked his car at the Monaghan Centre of Excellence in Cloghan before travelling with the team to Brewster Park.

The accident is understood to have ­occurred after Brendan collected his car at Cloghan and was making his way home.

Monaghan town councillor Paudge Connolly also paid tribute to Brendan yesterday morning saying everyone in the county was absolutely shocked.

In a statement, the gardaí appealed to anyone who may have witnessed the collision to come forward.

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