Teenage footballers swept out to sea in beach horror

The Sligo-based Rescue 118 helicopter pictured on Bundoran’s Tullan Strand on Saturday

TEENAGE footballers whose training session on a Bundoran beach nearly ended in tragedy have been reliving the moment when they were dragged out to sea by a rip current.
Players and coaches with the Fermanagh Super Cup soccer team were caught up in a freak current which pulled some of them out to sea at Tullan Strand. The players, aged 16 and 17 got into trouble after a training session on Saturday when at around mid-day, eight of them ended up being swept out to sea by strong currents and into the rocks. 
The beach is known to be unsafe for swimming, although those involved with the youth team insist that the young players were in the water only up to their waists when they got into trouble. 
Concerned onlookers immediately called the Coast Guard and within minutes Bundoran RNLI, gardai and the Sligo based Rescue 118 helicopter were at the scene. A group of quick thinking surfers, including Owen Murphy, entered the water on surf boards and helped the footballers to safety. 
“They were extremely lucky that this wasn’t so much worse but everyone at the beach at the time really pulled together to help,” Mr Murphy said. 
The lifeboat crew assisted eight of the players, some of whom were bruised from being near the rocks and others who had swallowed salty sea water before ambulances arrived. Nine boys and one coach were taken to Sligo University Hospital as a precaution but were released and allowed home later that evening.
One of those rescued was team captain Jake Irvine: “I went to turn to get back in to shore and I just couldn’t move. I was stuck there and started to panic. Luckily there were boys there who kept their cool, talked us through and got us over to the safety of the rocks,” he said afterwards. 
Coach Francie Shaw was also in the water and making his way out at the time, just a few metres behind those who got into difficulty. 
He told the Herald yesterday (Tuesday): “The players were literally only walking in the water up to their waist at most to cool their legs off and recuperate when suddenly the rip tide took them further out than expected. 
“We were aware that it’s not a safe beach to swim but this was paddling and all beaches have potential dangers depending how far out from shore and competent you are. There was never any previous issue and the players were never more than three feet in the water. 
“They had been told not to go too far out and a couple of boys had already started making their way back to shore when the rip tide began to catch them. Unfortunately the current was too strong for the remaining eight.”
Mr Shaw accepted that in light of the incident, the team will think twice about entering the water on Tullan beach again.  
“We have taken several Milk Cup squads to Tullan over the years as it’s usually part of the build up to train in Bundoran at some point in June or July. There have never been any problems with players in the water until this freak incident. 
“It would certainly put you off going into the water there in the future and maybe it’s not potentially well-flagged up enough as being more dangerous,” he added.  

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