By Billy Weir
SOME of hurling’s biggest names have paid glowing tributes to Frankie McMullan.
On St. Patrick’s Day the Dunloy and Antrim star lined-up at Croke Park for the All-Ireland Club Hurling Final, and as always played his heart out at corner back.
It wasn’t just the green shirt he graced with distinction for many years. He was also a key member of the Antrim panel, and his impact on and off the pitch has been evident in recent days.
The 29-year-old joined his brothers, Damian and Paudie, in the final defeat by Newtownshandrum, and has been described as ‘one of life’s gentlemen’ by his manager at Dunloy, Sean McLean.
"I've know him all my life and just can't believe he's gone," he said.
"When we came back home after losing the final on St Patrick's Day everyone was devastated. But Frankie's death has put everything into perspective.
"I spoke to him as recently as last week and everything was fine. He had a great attitude to life. Nothing was ever too much trouble."
Former Antrim manager Sean McGuinness also had the highest regard for the Dunloy stalwart.
"If you needed someone you could rely on, then Frankie McMullan was your man. He was a quiet, reserved individual, but a tenacious hurler on the pitch.
"He gave absolutely everything he had for the team, whether it was Dunloy or Antrim," McGuinness said.
The President of the GAA, Mr Sean Kelly, also extended his deepest sympathies and those of the Association to the family and friends of the Mullan Road man.
Mr. Kelly said that his death had left hurling fans throughout the country in a deep state of shock and sadness and said that the thoughts and prayers of everyone in the GAA were with the Dunloy club and the McMullan family at this time.
Political figures have also added their tributes, with Sinn Fin President Gerry Adams calling Frankie ‘an inspirational figure for both Dunloy and Antrim.’
"His loss is a big blow to Gaels throughout the county. However the biggest loss will be felt by Frankie’s family and in particular his wife and young children.
"On behalf of Sinn Fin I would wish to extend my sympathy to the McMullan family and the people of Dunloy at this very difficult time."
Nationalist SDLP deputy leader and former Antrim team doctor, Alasdair McDonnell said the hurler’s death would be ‘felt far beyond the country’.
Sinn Fein MLA and local councillor Philip McGuigan said villagers were ‘stunned’.