Chris McNeill.
Chris McNeill.

RENEWED calls have been made to introduce life-saving cardiac equipment to local sports facilities after the high-profile collapse of a Premier League star during a match last week.

Tommy Doherty, who has played, managed and refereed games since the 1960s has been calling on Ballymoney and Coleraine councils to back his campaign to provide the vital equipment at all local football venues following the collapse of teenage footballer Chris McNeill - a pupil at Dalriada - at the last Milk Cup.

The County Londonderry player fell motionless during a game in Portstewart and was only brought round thanks to the fast medical attention he received from a doctor who used a defibrillator at the ground.

And Bolton star Fabrice Muamba’s cardiac arrest during his side’s clash with Tottenham Hotspur in front of a television audience of millions has again thrown into the spotlight the importance of having the equipment at hand should a similar situation arise.

Since last summer the Bertie Peacock Foundation has spent over £6,000 in their bid to provide defibrillators at all Milk Cup venues this year.

And Tommy wants all local games to have the life-saving equipment available to them.

“What happened to young Chris in the summer was terrible, but thankfully he survived because this equipment was at the ground,” Tommy told Times Sport.

“It brought home how important it is to have something like this at a sporting venue. It really is a matter of life or death.

“There are so many games played in the Coleraine and Ballymoney areas every week in the Hutchinson Tiles League, the Coleraine & District League and all the youth leagues.”

Glebe Rangers are also pushing for the introduction of defibrillators which cost in the region of £1,000 plus the costs involving in training people in their use.

Committee member Jackie Morrison suffered a heart attack during one of their games last season at the age of 50.

“We have so many people playing football and sport in general in this area,” he said.

“We are seeing more and more of these cases and steps need to be taken to ensure the equipment is there if the worst happens.

“The Milk Cup is coming around soon again and we should have these in place sooner rather than later.”

Last year Derry City Council placed defibrillators in all their leisure centres. The portable devices are small and easy to use, but could be the difference between life and death.

Ballymoney Council has a defibrillator at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre, the money for which was raised due to fundraising when DUP councillor Bill Kennedy was mayor. Another is situated at a chemist in the town.

Neighbouring Moyle has two council-owned defibrillators.

Tommy held fundraising nights in Ballymoney and Coleraine last month.

And those backing the widespread introduction of defibs have been boosted by the news Caring Caretaker Davy Boyle has thrown his weight behind the drive.

He has earmarked the ‘Defibrillators - at the heart of every game’ initiative as one of his nine chosen charities this year and hopes to raise enough to provide 16 of them to local sports clubs.

“People often use the phrase ‘life changing’ but something like a defibrillator really is because it can make the difference between someone living or not,” Davy said.

“I’d encourage everyone out there to get behind us and support this as these are vital and will make a huge difference.

“You can play your part in saving lives.

“I want the defibrillator to become part of the kit along with the drinks and other equipment a team uses.

“It’s vitally important that as many sports people as possible have access to them. So I’d encourage people to back my campaign or sports clubs to push ahead and get their own.

“Heartsine, who are a local company, will be supplying the defibrillators and I thank them for the support they’ve given me already.

“It wasn’t so long ago that I didn’t even really know what a defibrillator was. But events over the last year have brought them to prominence and shown exactly how important they are.”

Dennis McNeill, who is a personal friend of Davy’s, had to endure the distressing scenes of seeing his son collapse during a game in last year’s Milk Cup.

“Christopher is alive today because of Doctor Healy and the defibrillator,” said Dennis, who is backing Davy‘s campaign.

“Our lives changed that day and being honest we probably didn’t even know what a defibrillator was until then.

“But we have to take the positives out of events such as what happened to Christopher so that it gets out into the public how important this piece of kit is.

“And what happened to Fabrice Muamba last weekend pushes it into the spotlight further.

“Nobody knows when anyone could be affected by something like this, but it’s vital to have the equipment on hand if it ever does happen.”