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Looking After Their Own: Irish Community Rallies to Support Sean Hughes and Family

Grange, County Armagh, native Sean Hughes is in a medically induced coma in a Delaware hospital after suffering a severe head injury in a job site accident.

Hughes, a resident of Drexel Hill for the past five years, is a member and player of the Young Irelands Gaelic Football Club. Now, members of that tightknit community—and for that matter, hundreds of people from literally everywhere—are coming to the aid of Hughes, his wife Emily O’Neill and son Sean, 2 years old.

An online fund drive sponsored by the Young Irelands thus far has raised close to $70,000 in financial assistance for the family in just a few days.

No one expected the campaign to have a global reach.

“The fund drive started locally,” says Trish Coyle Daly, a Young Irelands board member, “but now donations are coming from around the world. We have a connection to other Gaelic clubs, so everybody knows what it’s like to be knowing someone in that position. There are people in Ireland, ex-players of ours, who had their time here and are now paying it forward. But the Philadelphia Irish community is heavily represented. A lot of those people may or may not know Sean or Emily.” 

The donations that are pouring in are small, large and everything in between. Donations of $500 or $1,000 aren’t unusual. Any amount is helpful, Daly says. “Every little bit helps,” she adds. “That’s totally true.”

Hughes is well-known throughout Delaware County’s Irish community, Daly says. 

“When immigrants come here and they make this their home, when they start having their own family, it just plants them a little more,” she adds. “He has his wife now and his child, he’s starting a family. His son is his world. It’s just the beginning of his life, really.”

Back in Armagh, Hughes played for the Pearse Óg Gaelic Athletic Club. Like so many young Irish emigres to this area, Hughes found a home away from home and a touch of the familiar in the Philadelphia Gaelic Athletic Association, hurtling about the Limerick GAA pitch on summer weekends. His ties to the Young Irelands are strong. Playing for a local Gaelic football club gave him a sense of belonging. 

As for the Young Irelands, they’re eager and proud to return the favor.

“The Young Irelands are a 35-year-old club, relatively young compared to the other Gaelic clubs in town, but we really pride ourselves on taking care of our own,” says Daly. “And if we weren’t able to succeed at doing this, we would have found another way. Ultimately, we’re family for people who don’t have a family here. It becomes about this intimate family that takes care of each other.”  

You can help the Sean Hughes and his family, too. Here’s the GoFundMe page.

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