By David Raleigh
THE Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust has stepped in to assist the family of champion Irish rower Ailish Sheehan in returning her remains to her native Co Limerick after she passed away, following a fall in Poland.
A go-fund-me account, which has so far raised over ,000 (€10,700), has been set up in memory of Ms Sheehan, whose father John, from Bandon, played minor hurling for Cork.
Last Sunday fortnight, Ms Sheehan, (23), won bronze for Great Britain in the Women’s Senior Coxed Fours final at the FISU World University Championships in Poznan. Later the same evening, while out celebrating her victory, she fell suffering catastrophic head injuries.
The talented dual-citizen athlete passed away last Friday, surrounded by her parents John and Catherine, and her siblings Niamh and Aine, after spending six days on life-support. Her heartbroken family are arranging to have her body flown home for burial.
The go-fund-me account was opened in the United States, by Emily Mediate, a former college roommate and friend of the rising athletics star. Speaking from the US, she said: ‘We set up the fund just to try to honour Ailish in some way. It was difficult for her Notre Dame “family” to feel so far away from her in Poland during the last few days, so this was our way of commemorating her.’
Here, President Michael D Hggins led tributes to the Sheehan family, describing Ailish’s passing as ‘a cruel blow’.
Colin Bell, of the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, said it would take oversee the repatriation of Ms Sheehan’s body to Ireland.
‘We’ll make the arrangements for the repatriation. We’ll pay for the repatriation,’ Mr Bell added.
Ailish’s heartbroken family returned to their home in Kildimo, Co Limerick, last Saturday.
Ms Sheehan had followed her father into sport. At the height of his playing days in the 1970s, John Sheehan turned out for Cork minors and St Mary’s, London. Later on, the former PE teacher would train the Limerick senior hurling team.
Prior to concentrating on her rowing career, Ailish Sheehan had established herself one of Ireland’s leading shot put and javelin throwers. She represented her country in both codes at International Schools level, and later at the Celtic Games in Scotland.
In 2011, the former member of Dooneen Athletic Club and St Michael’s Rowing Club, Limerick, accepted an offer of an athletic scholarship from Notre Dame – one of the leading universities in the USA.
At the time of her tragic death, Ms Sheehan was representing Team GB and a postgraduate design student at Goldsmiths, University of London.