'much loved' | 

Tributes paid after death of Co Antrim firefighter and GAA coach Darren O’Neill (41)

Mr O’Neill’s GAA club have extended their sympathies to his family circle.

Mr O'Neill had recently begun playing for the Antrim Masters Gaelic Football team

Co Antrim firefighter Darren O'Neill

Liam TunneyBelfast Telegraph

Tributes have been paid online to a ‘much loved’ Co Antrim firefighter, GAA coach and former player who has passed away.

Darren O’Neill (41) was a former player at Naomh Séamas CLG in Aldergrove, where he coached the current senior ladies team. The club have said they will open their clubhouse this evening for anyone who wishes to congregate in Mr O’Neill’s memory.

"It is with deepest regret Naomh Séamas has learned of the untimely death of our much loved senior ladies coach Darren O’Neill,” said a spokesperson.

"The clubhouse will be opened up this evening for everyone to have a central place to come along and get a tea/coffee from 7-9pm. We encourage anyone who wishes to come round.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to the entire family circle at this time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

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Darren, nicknamed ‘Horse’, was also a former player and youth coach at St Malachy’s GAC, Belfast, who said they were ‘saddened’ to hear of his death.

"We are very saddened to learn of our former player and former youth team coach Darren O'Neills untimely death,” they said.

"Horse was a vital part of our Championship winning team and also helping with our underage teams. Darren was loved by everyone at the club and will be remembered fondly.

"We would like to extend our thoughts and prayers to Darren's family circle at this time. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”

Antrim Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) also paid tribute to Mr O’Neill.

“We at Antrim LGFA are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Darren O'Neill, senior ladies' manager at Naomh Séamas CLG,” they said.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Darren's family, friends, and with both Naomh Séamas and St Malachy's GAC, Belfast communities during this difficult time.”

Co Antrim firefighter Darren O'Neill

Mr O’Neill had recently begun playing for the Antrim Masters Gaelic Football team, who said they were ‘deeply shocked’ by his death.

"Antrim Masters are deeply shocked to hear of the untimely passing of our friend and football colleague Darren (Daz) O'Neill, a young man involved with the fire service in Balllymena and who only recently pulled on the saffron jersey,” they said.

"Balancing the fire service role and playing masters football was never easy but when he could Daz would get to a game even if it meant taking the motorbike. Deepest sympathy to his wife Orainne and wider family... ar dheis dé go raibh a anam.”

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) Eastern Area Command said Mr O’Neill would be ‘sorely missed’.

"NIFRS East are extremely saddened to learn about the death of our colleague and dear friend Firefighter Darren O’Neill,” they said.

"Darren will be sorely missed by all of us. Thoughts and prayers are with Darren’s wife Orianne and family at this extremely tragic and difficult time.”

Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced. Mr O’Neill’s family have requested privacy at this time.

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