Talented hurler Gary Murphy, aged 19, from Grantstown, Co Waterford had been drinking beer and neat vodka before he drained a quarter of a litre of vodka in one slug after friends bet that he could not do it.
The student was celebrating an under-21 hurling champion win with friends at a party in the Victoria Mills complex at Victoria Cross in Cork on December 6. There were up to 12 male students in the flat when a drinking game involving a deck of cards got under way, some time after 10pm, Cork Coroner’s Court heard.
Gary Murphy reportedly produced a bottle of apple vodka which he was serving to those playing the game and was drinking it neat himself.
The inquest heard evidence from friends of the deceased at the party who said Mr Murphy drank between six and 11 cans at the party before opening a bottle of vodka he had brought home from a holiday.
Giving evidence, Cillian Murphy, a second-year commerce student, said the deceased was drinking the vodka straight from the bottle.
“He drank half the bottle and then we all gave a fiver for a dare and he finished it off. He fell sideways on to the table in the living room and then he got straight up and was able to stand on his own,” he said.
The deceased, Mr Murphy, had taken his shirt off and had his hands in the air but was later seen lying on his side on the couch.
“He was really drunk, his eyes kept rolling back in his head,” Mr Murphy said.
One of the young men present, Padraig O’Shea, said the drinking game ended when the deceased drained, in one slug, the bottle of vodka he had been drinking.
“Gary was drinking his own bottle of vodka he had bought on holiday.
“The game stopped when he drank back his vodka and sank back into the couch. He took the first slug and coughed and then drank it back,” Mr O’Shea said.
Shortly after, Mr Murphy collapsed by the lift and his friends stripped him naked and placed him inside. He was sent up and down the building in the lift before he was removed and his friends put him to bed.
“[Two friends] put Gary in the lift, he was lying on his back with his legs elevated. People took pictures with camera phones. We were on the fifth floor. The lift went down and came up again and then he was taken out of the lift,” Mr O’Shea told the inquest.
His friends then placed him on his side in bed, in case he vomited and a razor was used to shave off one of his eyebrows.
Minutes later, one of Gary’s friends noticed his lips had turned blue. “He was very drunk when we put him to bed but I wasn’t seriously worried about him until I saw him turning blue,” Mr O’Shea said.
A former student nurse Ann Marie Norris checked his pulse and noticed he was gasping for air. “He’d gone really pale and grey, it was like he was choking and his pulse was really faint,” she said.
Emergency services were called but when paramedics arrived at 11.40pm, the young student had stopped breathing.
He was rushed to Cork University Hospital where he lay in a coma for ten days until his death on December 17, two days after his 19th birthday.
In her autopsy report, assistant state pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster said Mr Murphy’s level of acute alcohol intoxication had led to a cardiac respiratory arrest.
Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane described the loss of the young hurler as “unbearable” and said that while the dangers of alcohol were well recognised they were seldom so tragically illustrated.
The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure.