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Tragedy that Inishowen will never forget 18.12.14

IT remains Ireland’s most notorious road crash. But the accident that claimed the lives of eight Co Donegal men on July 11, 2010, was also one of the worst single tragedies ever to befall the rural peninsula of Inishowen.
Among the men who died in the accident were good-natured sons; go-to brothers; a quiet uncle, soccer team-mates and boyfriends that might one day be husbands.
The seven young pals who piled into their friend Shaun Kelly’s car than fateful night, were heading one way, pensioner Hughie Friel, the other.
Opposite directions on the same well-worn rural road.
One direction offered the promise of more fun to be eked out of World Cup final night – an event that comes but once in four years. Hughie’s direction was for home as he quietly celebrated his modest 65 euro win at the parish bingo.
Where the men’s paths intersected that night would result in scenes of carnage that were never before witnessed by veteran emergency personnel. Meanwhile, news of the horror collision spread like a Mexican wave through the peninsula, breaking by dawn like a tsunami in the victims’ native parishes.
The following week, the priests of the area had to carefully choreograph eight funerals to allow mourners crisscross a peninsula, barely a part of which was untouched by the tragedy - then as today.
Paul Doherty (19)
Paul Doherty was a young mechanic and lorry driver from Ardagh, Ballyliffin. He was one of five children and he loved to brag that he was a better welder than his dad. Paul was remembered as a young man "full of energy and full of life" who enjoyed country music. His prized car was an Audi A4.
Gifts brought to the altar during his funeral mass included a copy of Auto Trader, a boiler suit and a spanner. Paul Doherty’s grave lies side-by-side with that of his childhood friend Ciaran Sweeney who also died in the crash.
Ciaran Sweeney (19)
Ciaran Sweeney was a butcher’s apprentice from Ballyliffin. At the time of the accident he was going out with Catherine Anne Kelly – younger sister of the accused driver, Shaun Kelly. Ciaran was one of four children.
He enjoyed music festivals such as Oxegen and the annual music festival in his home village. He went to the festivals more for "the craic" than the music.
Mark McLaughlin (21)
Mark McLaughlin only ever wanted to drive a lorry for a living. The 21-year old from Ballinahone, Fahan, was delighted when he eventually got his own eight-wheeled articulated truck. Mark was one of two children.
Mourners at his funeral were told that he never missed a day's work, was dependable and could always work on his own initiative. He would work from early morning until late at night if required.
PJ McLaughlin (21)
PJ McLaughlin always wanted to be famous. But as one of the eight victims of Ireland's worst road crash, tragically it would be for the wrong reasons. He was one of five children from Rockstown, Burnfoot, and was a "bit of a showman" who loved fashion. PJ loved working on cars.
He was also a striker for Inishowen league club, Illies Celtic FC. Among the gifts brought to the altar during his funeral mass were a soccer jersey and a photo of a BMW car.
James McEleney (23)
James McEleney from Meenaduff, Clonmany, was "a joker" whose version of 'The Full Monty' was legendary. He was one of six children and worked for a guttering contractor. In the days leading up to the accident, he had painted the outside of his mother's house and had filled the shed with turf.
James loved country music and his favourite singer was Mike Denver. Denver and his band travelled to sing at James' funeral.
Eamonn McDaid (22)
Eamonn McDaid was one of five children from Ballymagan, Buncrana. He worked as a mechanic and carpenter. He was a midfielder at Inishowen soccer club, Illies Celtic FC where one of his team-mates was PJ McLaughlin, who also died in the accident.
Eamonn was "wild for craic" and his laugh was infectious, his funeral heard. He loved cars and would have driven the length of the country at the drop of a hat.
Damien McLaughlin (21)
Damien McLaughlin was a carpenter from Umricam, Buncrana. He was one of five children and was the second cousin of Mark McLaughlin (21) who also died in the crash. Damien had just bought a new work van and had invited his friends around to see it in the hours before the crash.
Friends described him as “a lovely, hardworking fella”.
Hughie Friel (66)
Hughie Friel from Urris, Clonmany, was a bachelor farmer and pensioner. He always wore a flat cap and was known as someone who would do anyone a good turn. Parish priest Fr Fintan Diggin recalled that Hughie’s life revolved around working the land and helping his neighbours.
His only distraction was the parish bingo, from where he was returning when the crash happened. Hughie left behind five siblings and a nephew.
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