TRIBUTES have been paid to a young rugby star who died following a collision at the weekend.
Liam O’Connor, 20, was struck by a vehicle in Newcastle, north-east England at around 1.40am on Saturday, June 10.
He was taken to hospital but sadly passed away.
Mr O’Connor, who was from Manchester, was an academy player with rugby union side Sale Sharks.
In a statement, the Premiership side paid tribute to the young man, who had just finished his second year at Newcastle University.
‘Liam epitomised spirit of Rugby Union’
“His excellent rugby career started at Didsbury Toc H, before moving to Heaton Moor, Lancashire and Sale Sharks,” read the statement.
“During his two years at university he represented Newcastle Medics.
“Every one of those teams and its players had a true star and warrior in their team.
“Liam epitomised the spirit of Rugby Union, and always made his parents and team mates proud of his achievements.
“Everyone at Sale Sharks is completely heartbroken and our thoughts turn to Liam’s family, Joan, Mike, Sean, and Kathleen.”
Mr O’Connor was a former pupil at St Ambrose College and played for the school’s first XV.
He also represented Lancashire at every age group from U13 through to U18 before joining the Sale Sharks Developing Players Programme and later the Junior Academy.
One of Mr O’Connor’s former clubs, Heaton Moor, described him as ‘one the club’s greatest ever young talents’.
“It is safe to say Liam was the complete rugby player,” said team manager Dave Gordon.
“Liam won many awards at the club — player of the year on several occasions.
“Liam never wanted personal acknowledgement and awards.
“He was always a player who cared more about the team’s results than personal awards.”
Northumbria Police said a silver Peugeot 308 had been travelling northbound on Great North Road in Jesmond when the collision occurred.
The driver remained at the scene and is assisting police with their enquiries.
“This is a truly devastating outcome, and our thoughts remain with Liam’s family and loved ones at this very sad time,” said Sergeant Steven Chappell.
“We would ask that their privacy is respected as they attempt to come to terms with what has happened.
“We are committed to getting answers for his family and finding out the full circumstances surrounding this collision, which has tragically resulted in his death.”
Sergeant Chappell urged anyone with information to contact police on 101.