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Mystery death of soccer player.

Byline: By JAKE MORRIS and DARREN FULLERTON

IRISH League soccer was in shock last night after Dungannon Swifts star Gary Bownes was found dead aged 26.

His body was discovered at a factory at Scotchtown, Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, yesterday.

Last night Swifts manager Joe McAree said: "We're very shocked. It is an awful blow to everyone concerned with the club." The centre forward had starred for Dungannon as they stormed to fourth place in the Daily Mirror Irish League Premier Division last season, the club's highest finish.

And in March he became the first Dungannon player to win the Irish League player of the month trophy.

Bownes was brought to Stangmore Park by McAree, who said the club was in shock after hearing the news.

He added: "He was training with us on Saturday morning and he seemed in good form."

McAree said the 15-goal top scorer had been a revelation since joining the club from Ballinamallard last season.

He said: "He was a player of great ability who joined the club last summer. His attitude was always first class.

"Some people had questioned my signing of Gary, some suggesting the step up from junior football would be too much but Gary promised me 15 goals in his debut season in the top league and he delivered 15 goals.

"He won the player of the month for March. We were proud of Gary because he was the first ever player from the club to be given that honour.

"He was a great player. He was relaxed and he always seemed so full of confidence and self-belief. He was always smiling, on and off the football pitch.

"It's a terrible shock because the club are planning for a tour of Canada starting on July 8. He was due to go on that tour."

Bownes, from Ennniskillen, was a draughtsman with Fishers Engineering. He was single but leaves behind his dad Ken, mum Irene and sister Joanne.

Dungannon Swifts Supporters' Club chairman Marcus Thompson paid tribute to Gary.

He said: "He was an unbelievably nice guy who never had a bad word to say to anybody on or off the field.

"It's a great tragedy and a tremendous loss for the club and we all extend our deepest sympathy to the family."

Gardai said last night: "A man's body was recovered at 1.20pm today and removed. The death is not thought to be suspicious."

Irish League fans last night also spoke of their shock at the news. On the irishleagueforums.net internet messageboard one fan wrote: "A very sad day for Irish League football and especially those associated closely with Gary, Dungannon Swifts and Ballinamallard.

"Sincere sympathies to the Bownes family circle. A great talent but also a great guy. He will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace."

Another said: "Unbelievably shocked. A sad day for Irish League football." And a third wrote: "That is terrible news, can't believe it. Condolences to the family."

CAPTION(S):

DISCOVERY: Gary; PROUD: Manager Joe McAree
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 27, 2005
Words:503
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