Tributes have been paid to a 22-year-old student who lost his battle for life after a swimming accident in the US.
Philip Leahy, a CIT student from Ballyhooly, Co Cork, died on Sunday, four days after getting into difficulties while swimming at Ocean City in Maryland. The popularity of the young man and his family saw over €90,000 raised over the weekend to help with medical expenses while he was being treated in hospital, before news of his death broke late on Sunday night.
Philip was the youngest ever captain of Ballyhooly’s Junior B football team and led them to their first county title last year.
Ballyhooly GAA Club spokesman John O’Keeffe said the whole village was devastated at the news.
“Philip was a very popular, outgoing young man who was equally good footballer and hurler,” said Mr O’Keeffe. “He won his first medals at U-12 level and was playing with us ever since, usually in defence. We were hoping he’d be back for our hurling campaign.
“It’s very tragic. Everybody is very upset. The Leahy family have connections all over the place.”
Around 900 people and local businesses had responded generously to the appeal that went out on Saturday for funds to help meet the costs of Philip’s hospital treatment. A spokesperson for the fundraising group said last night that the €93,317 which was raised will be used for medical expenses incurred, as well as travel and other costs that will arise in the coming days.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is liaising with the family in order to provide consular assistance. Funeral arrangements have yet to be made locally, but a service will be held in memory of Philip at the Catholic church in Ballyhooly at 8.30pm tonight.
Philip had travelled to the US with a group of friends on a J1 visa in June, and was working two different jobs.
He got into difficulties while swimming at Ocean City last Wednesday. It is believed he suffered a cardiac arrest and was immediately put on life support when he arrived at Atlantic General Hospital.
Mr O’Keeffe said Philip’s mother, Ann, two brothers William and Patrick and his aunt, Mary Walsh had been keeping a vigil at his bedside.
Philip was due to return to studies at Cork Institute of Technology next month, and was to have been conferred with an degree in business and recreation in October.
Dan Collins, academic affairs and student administration at CIT, said the news of Philip’s death was met with great sadness by a large number of people, so many who had been hoping for the best and fearing the worst.
He said Philip was held in high esteem by staff and students alike and had engaged on numerous levels at CIT and was well thought of by all who knew him.
Mr Collins said supports would be available for those who needed it, and a member of CIT staff has been in daily contact with the students and friends who were on the J1 programme with Philip.
Former Fine Gael TD Tom Barry, who lives in Killavullen, near Ballyhooly, said he was shocked and saddened by the news.
“He was a very noce lad and it’s very tough for such a small community,” Mr Barry said. “This is another tragedy in the family. His father [Philly] only died three years ago while he was canvassing in the local elections for Fine Gael.”
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