Matty’s teammates devastated by loss of their captain

By Niall Gartland

TWO of Matthew McGuigan’s former Kildress teammates have described their devastation at the loss of someone whose dedication to the Wolfe Tones was evident in so many ways.

Dean McNally and Philip Lennon were joint-captains of the Kildress team that claimed the Tyrone Junior Championship title in 2020, and they are still coming to terms with last Saturday’s shock news that their star forward and captain has passed away at the age of 24.

McNally and Lennon played alongside Matthew for many years, but they also coached him at underage level and it wasn’t long before they knew that they had a star on their hands.

McNally said, “Matty was only 24 but he’d been around a long time and has been such a prominent figure for us. You almost lost track of the years that he was involved and he should have been there for a lot more.

“He was one of the best lads I’ve ever coached, he was full of talent and ability. But he was so much more than just a great footballer, he was a great lad.

“He coached the minor team for the last two years and had been around for years before that with his uncle Sean Tracey, he’d been on the committee, he was our captain, he was involved with fundraising.”

It’s been a traumatic period for the Kildress club, who were also hit by tragedy in late September when Ronan Wilson, who played for the u-10s, was killed in a hit-and-run incident in Donegal.

McNally commented, “Only a few months ago we appreciated the support that came our way after the passing of young Ronan Wilson. It takes everyone to get you through days and weeks like these.”

McGuigan succumbed to illness days after landing in Australia with his girlfriend Clodagh and McNally says their foremost priority is getting him back home to Ireland.

“It’s hard to absorb that only a few days ago we were saying farewell to him as he left for Australia, and little did we know it was our last farewell, and now we can’t wait to get him home to his family and friends.”

Another of McGuigan’s long-standing teammates, Philip Lennon, says that they’re completely ‘heartbroken’ by the passing of his close friend.

“We’re absolutely shattered, we’re completely heartbroken and it hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s cruel for everyone involved.

“Matty was an incredible talent and everyone throughout the county knew about that. But he was also a brilliant lad and nobody in this club had a bad word to say about him. All he wanted to do is play football for Kildress and it’s so hard to take that he’s now gone.”

“Behind the scenes he was a great friend and you could’ve rung or texted Matty every day of the week about anything, he was at the other end of the phone. He was unbelievable, he really was.”

It says it all about Matty’s innate leadership abilities that he was installed as captain of the Wolfe Tones while still in his early twenties, as Lennon acknowledges.

“Every time I was at the field, and I’m there a lot, Matty was there too. He was the leader for us surely and it was with good reason that he was our captain for the last couple of years. You can’t really put the significance of this into words, it’s devastating.”

The esteem in which Matty was held was evident at a poignant vigil on Monday night at the club with hundreds of people in attendance. Lennon says the one thing they can do at this time is offer their support to the family and everyone else touched by this tragedy.

“There’s one thing about this community, if there’s a time of need, we all stand beside each other and look out for everyone else.

“We’ll do as much as we can for the family, it’s all we can do at this stage.”

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