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Sporting deaths of 2017
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Sporting deaths of 2017

Off The Ball
Off The Ball

15:08 29 Dec 2017

December, being the final month of the year, is always going to be a time where sport fans rack their brains thinking about their favourite events of the year, the controversial moments, the funniest commentary lines and so on.

In among all of those thoughts and memories of the joyous occasions throughout the year there lie some more somber, emotional moments.

Every year some of the most loved, memorable, and celebrated sport stars and personalities pass away. As 2017 nears to its eventual close, we remember those who who gave us so many incredible moments down through the years.

Jake Lamotta (Boxing - 95)

Giacobbe "Jake" LaMotta. A former Middleweight champion who retired with 106 bouts on his record, victorious in 86 of them, LaMotta passed away in September due to complications arising from a case of pneumonia.

Stepping into the ring far more frequently than his contemporary counterparts, LaMotta will be remembered for his six-fight rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson, of which he won just one contest, and going 103 fights before being dropped for the first and only time of his career.

The subject of arguably the best boxing movies of all time - Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull - he will also be remembered for the darker elements of his personality outside the ring. 

Ugo Ehiogu (Football - 45)

A League Cup winner with both Aston Villa and Middlesborough, Ehiogu became the first black player to captain an England side when he skippered the Under 21 side against Netherlands in April 1993.

Going on to become a full international, as well Middlesborough's record signing for £8million in 2000, Ehiogu made a successful transition into a coaching career, working with the England Under 20s and taking charge of the Tottenham Under 23 side.

He died on April 21st, a day after suffering a cardiac arrest at the Tottenham training ground.

Aaron Hernandez (NFL - 27)

Hernandez was a First Team All-American while playing for the University of Florida, where he won the SEC Championship in 2008. He later starred for the New England Patriots for three seasons, earning the then 23-year-old one a $40million contract extension 2012

Hernandez's career came to a shuddering halt when he was arrested and charged for the murder of Odin Lloyd, the boyfriend of his fiance's sister, in 2013. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in 2015.

He was found dead in his single cell on April 19th this year, with the coroner's report officially ruling the death a suicide. 

Ryan McBride (Football - 27)

McBride passed away in tragic circumstances back in March. He had skippered Derry during their 4-0 victory over Drogheda only the day previous, and though he had felt unwell at halftime he completed the game, before he was found dead at his home near the Brandywell stadium on March 19th. 

A local man, he travelled the unlikely route to professional football. Having not been part of an academy side, he rose from Sunday league football to win the 2011 League of Ireland Cup and the 2012 FAI Cup, before be named his local side's captain in 2015.

Jimmy Superfly Snuka (Pro Wrestling - 73)

James Reiher Snuka (born James Wiley Smith) will be better known for his ring-name, Jimmy Superfly Snuka.

A fan favourite for his high-flying moves, most notably the Superfly Splash, the Fijian took part in the first ever Wrestlemania, and was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1996.

Superfly was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2015, and suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy and dementia in his final years. He passed away on January 15th in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Tony Keady (Hurling - 53)

The Galway hurling star passed away on August 9th at his home in Oranmore.

Listing all of his accomplishments is no easy task. Between 1983-1988 Keady won two All-Irelands, two National Hurling Leagues, and an Under-21 All-Ireland for Galway, the Galway and Connacht hurling championships for his club side Killimordaly, a Railway Cup for Connacht, as well as a Hurler of the Year Award and two All Stars for himself. 

Over 1,000 people turned up for the funeral of the man who was famously served a 12-month ban from the game in 1989 having played an exhibition game for Laois under his brother's name in America.

Jimmy McGee (Broadcaster - 82)

The legendary broadcaster and voice of a multiple sporting generations passed away on September 20th, having fallen ill just days previously.

The 82-year-old, affectionately known as "The Memory Man", had been working as a sports broadcaster for RTE for over half a century, having covered the Olympic Games since 1968 and the World Cup since 1966.

Perhaps one of his most famous moments was his commentary on Maradona's famous goal against England, capturing the moment with a beautiful simplicity. 

Joost ven der Westhuizen (Rugby - 45)

The former South African rugby captain was capped 89 times for his country over ten years, scoring 38 tries and winning the 1995 World Cup and 1998 Tri-Nations Championship along the way.

Joost was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2011, going on to set up the J9 foundation to raise awareness and funds to support research of the disease, eventually passing away on February 6th at his home in Johannesburg. 

Graham Taylor (Football - 72)

Taylor may be best known for his time as England manager, but it's his club career where he really excelled. 

Taking a Fourth Division Watford side to a second place finish in England's top tier within a space of just six years, he went on to take over at the top position in English football. 

Managing the national side as he lost just one game out of his first 23 and leading them to a semi-final loss to Sweden in the 1986 European Championships, Taylor eventually returned to club management where he returned to former side Watford for five seasons, again securing a top flight return with back-to-back promotions.

Willie Duggan (Rugby - 67)

A Triple Crown winner in 1977 which saw he selected for the summer Lions tour in New Zealand, the Leinster and Kilkenny RFC man amassed 41 caps in the back row for his country, playing his final season as the Irish captain.

A man of a different time, despite being one of the finest No.8s in the world at the time Duggan was known for his heavy smoking habit, and even once handed referee Allan Hosie a lit cigarette as he ran onto the Twickenham pitch for a Test against England in 1982.

Duggan passed away at his home in Dunmore, Kilkenny, on August 28th.

Cheick Tiote (Football - 30)

The former Newcastle United and Ivory Coast midfielder collapsed of cardiac arrest on June 5th while training for Chinese Super League outfit Beijing Enterprises.

Constantly linked with a move to one of the Premier League's top sides, Tiote spent six years at St. James' Park where he managed to score just one goal, a 25-yard volley on his weaker foot to secure one of the league's greatest ever comebacks against Arsenal. 

If you're only going to score one goal, you might as well make it the final strike in a 4-4 classic. "Boom, boom, Cheick the room".

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