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Swinford sports star dies on dream holiday

Gary Price
Gary Price is pictured playing for Castlebar Celtic in 2007.

Swinford in mourning

Tributes paid after death of  popular young sports star

Edwin McGreal

The town of Swinford was last night coming to terms with the shocking news that popular local sports star Gary Price had drowned in a tragic accident in South East Asia.
Gary’s body was found on Monday morning Irish time after a two day search. He reportedly was swept away by a strong current when part of a group crossing the Nam Song River near the town of Vang Vieng in Laos at the weekend.
The 23-year-old (pictured) was in South-East Asia for a number of weeks on holiday. He had lived in Australia for almost a year and was due to be home in Swinford next week, before flying to Boston for the summer with friends. Poignantly his 24th birthday would have taken place next Tuesday, May 29.
The native of Cullane, Swinford is mourned by his parents Gerry and Margaret, brother Kevin and sisters Deirdre and Aisling.
He was in Laos with two friends, Kieran Lynskey from Swinford and Shane Hynes from Castlebar, who had left Melbourne with Gary to tour around South East Asia.
Gary’s brother Kevin yesterday flew out with Colm Hynes, father of Shane, to bring Gary’s remains home to Swinford. It is, as yet, unclear when his body will be repatriated.
Full details of the incident are, as yet, unclear. It’s believed that Gary slipped while part of a group crossing the notorious Nam Song River at a shallow point. Unable to swim, it is believed he was swept away by the strong current. The Vang Vieng area is a popular spot for backpackers but a high number of fatalities have taken place along the Nam Song where safety provisions are minimal. An activity known as ‘tubing’ is very popular in Vang Vieng with hordes of backpackers travelling downstream in inflatable round tubes.
Gary’s friends searched frantically for him over the weekend. Shane Hynes and Kieran Lynskey even hired a boat on Sunday to go searching themselves before his body was located on Monday morning Irish time.
Gary Price, who studied Business Studies at GMIT in Galway, was an accomplished sportsman, excelling at both soccer and Gaelic football. It was in soccer that he really made his name, being one of the brightest young talents in Mayo soccer in recent years and all who spoke about him recall an exceptional young man, on and off the field.
He starred for the soccer club in Swinford and with the Gaelic football team in the town. Mayo GAA PRO Aiden McLoughlin played club football with Gary Price in Swinford and admitted that the town was reeling, particularly when you factor in the tragic death of local GAA star Robert McCallion three years ago while on Garda duty.
“When the news came through on Saturday evening/Sunday morning that he was missing there was some hope that he would be found alive and well but then the news came through this morning (Monday) that the body was found. 
“It’s so tragic. We’ve had a huge tragedy in the town with the death of Robert McCallion and for another young man to be taken in tragic circumstances is very difficult.
“What always struck me about Gary was how he was a very genuinely nice lad. Gary was the life and soul of the party. He was an exceptional sportsman too. He was very good at Gaelic football but was something else at soccer. I played a few games of astroturf with him and he was amazing, a class apart. He was a brilliant Gaelic player but never really had the time for it with his soccer commitments,” Mr McLoughlin told The Mayo News.
His brilliance on the soccer field saw him move to Castlebar Celtic and play a huge part in their historic FAI Youth Cup (U-18) success in 2007. The manager of that team, Declan Kilkelly, admits that Gary was an exceptional young man, on and off the field.
“If you knew Pricey you loved him,” Mr Kilkelly told The Mayo News yesterday. “I never heard anyone say a bad word about him. He was so laid back. In terms of football what I would say is that we wouldn’t have won the FAI Youth Cup without him.
“You’d always be impressed with him, both on and off the pitch. He was a great lad, a joy to be around. Sometimes he’d break your heart how laid-back he was (laughs). Pricey was Pricey though, he always had a smile and we loved him. I couldn’t speak highly enough of him as a footballer and as a man. It’s such a tragic loss that’s going to touch everyone in Celtic,” said Kilkelly.
The captain of that Celtic team, the first team from the club to win an FAI National title, James Minogue was struggling to come to terms with the news that one of their band has already passed on.
“I just heard then this morning that his body had been found, it’s just awful, I’m in a state of shock. I’ve been taking to a few of the lads [from the 2007 team and we can’t believe it]. Gary really got on well with everyone. He was the soundest fella ever. He was always smiling, a real happy character.
“He played against us last year [for Swinford] and scored too! It was the last time I saw him because he went to Australia soon afterwards. I never got the chance to wish him well afterwards … All this is just very hard to comprehend,” admitted Minogue.
And the Breaffy man remembers Gary Price as an exceptional talent on the pitch.
“He was a very skilful player but the thing about Gary was that he was a real big game player. When you really needed him, he stood up. You could always rely on him for a goal. He played such a huge role in our FAI Youth Cup run. He scored a hat-trick in the Last 16, two in the quarter-final, one in the semi-final and one in the final.
“We used to call him Berbatov because he looked lazy and had that languid style but had a phenomenal touch and control and skill. You hear about top players and what they can do at training – well some of the things Gary would do in training would amaze you. If he wanted to he could easily have played at a higher level but he never really pushed himself because he was very laid-back,” added Minogue.
As well as playing soccer with Swinford and Castlebar Celtic, for whom Gary Price played in the League of Ireland at U-20 and A League level, he also played U-20 League of Ireland with Mervue United in Galway.
No funeral arrangements had been made at time of going to press.

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