30/08/2011

Sports World Faces Up To Tragedies

Sporting tragedies have been flooding Northern Ireland over the past few days with the NI Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín moved to express her sadness at a series of sporting deaths over the weekend.

She spoke out after Len Ganley, the legendary snooker referee, died at his home in Lurgan.

Commenting on the death, the Sinn Fein Minister said: "Len Ganley was undoubtedly one of the great characters in snooker and a very familiar face - well known even to those who had very little interest in the game.

"For someone not to be a player but still to be so universally recognised and respected says a lot about the man.

"Len Ganley was highly regarded for his professionalism as a referee and for his tireless charity fundraising. He did much for the sport he loved and will be sorely missed," she said, adding, "I wish to send my heartfelt condolences to his family."

The Minister added: "It has also been a sad weekend for the sport of motorcycling, with the tragic deaths of two riders in two separate events.

"Adrian McFarland died on Saturday in the Czech Republic and Wayne Hamilton died on Monday on the Isle of Man.

"Both were young men, with Wayne only starting out on a promising career in the sport. My sincere sympathies go out to both families at this very difficult time," she said.

The Minister further said: "It is also with great sadness that I learned of the tragic death of Ards cricketer Peter Ritchie.

"It is yet another death of a young sportsman in tragic circumstances and again my thoughts are with his family at this time," the Minister said.

One of the motorcyclists has since been described as an "up and coming superstar" by one of the sport's legends.

Wayne Hamilton, 20, from Portadown, died after a crash in the Junior Manx Grand Prix race on Monday.

He had won the Newcomers 'A' Race at the Manx Grand Prix on Saturday.

Phillip McCallen, who has 11 Isle of Man TT wins, told BBC NI that Mr Hamilton had been set to enter the "bigger league".

Meanwhile, the SDLP West Tyrone MLA Joe Byrne has said the local sporting community is shocked following the death of Plumbridge motorbike racer Adrian McFarland in a race in the Czech Republic.

Mr Byrne said his death was a shock to the local community and the sporting community.

"I would like to express my sympathies and those of the people I represent to not only Mr McFarland's family and close friends but also the local motorbike racing fraternity, a very close knit community.

"The motorbike community has had to deal with many tragedies yet this does not make it any easier to cope with," he said.

(BMcC/GK)

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