The heroic actions of a Co Fermanagh football team’s managers have been praised after seven young players were swept out to sea at the weekend.
The incident happened following a training session for the Fermanagh Super Cup premier team – a squad of players aged between 16 and 17 – on Tullan Strand in Bundoran, Co Donegal on Saturday morning.
A spokesperson for the team’s committee said: “Like many other sporting organisations, our teams regularly use the sea as part of a cool down recovery process, and on Saturday the young players were in the water.
“However, on this occasion it would seem that a freak rip current meant an unexpected situation developed quickly.”
Of the squad of 18, seven players had to be rescued in an operation which saw a team effort involving a number of people and agencies.
The team’s managers began the rescue from the beach while the recovery of the boys was aided by local surfers, the RNLI, a Sligo-based rescue helicopter, the Garda and members of the public.
Nine boys and one coach were taken to Sligo University Hospital to be checked out – some had scrapes and bruising from being near the rocks, others had taken in salt water. They were all released from hospital the same evening.
After what the committee described as a “traumatic weekend” they said they were relieved those involved were ok.
As well as thanking all those who helped in the rescue operation they also paid particular tribute to the team’s three managers.
The committee said: “We would like to place on record the committee’s admiration for our management team’s heroic efforts in helping to rescue the boys, and indeed putting the boys’ welfare ahead of their own well-being.
“Only for the presence of mind and courage of Darren Higginbotham, Nathan Cashel and Francie Shaw, the incident could have resulted in much more serious consequences.”
The News Letter understands that Mr Higginbotham ventured furthest into the water to rescue the young players who had been swept towards rocks, while the other coaches raised the alarm before joining him in the water.
Having survived the scare, the young team will be continuing their preparations for next week’s Super Cup tournament.