Crossmaglen Rangers’ All-Ireland winning captain James Hughes (right)Google Images

A top GAA player pleaded for his life as a love rival prepared to blast him with a double-barrelled shotgun in a quiet Dundalk housing estate.

Crossmaglen Rangers’ All-Ireland winning captain James Hughes (35) was hit by two shots and killed by the jealous gunman in a taxi outside a young girl’s house.

The murderer, who has since handed himself in to police, became jealous after he spotted Hughes talking to 21-year-old Patricia Byrne on a night out.

The girl and the taxi-driver were both injured in the attack in the early hours of Sunday morning in the Lis na Mara housing estate in Dundalk.

Police believe the gunman was lying in wait as Hughes, a father of three from a previous relationship, arrived in a taxi with Byrne outside her family home.

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The taxi was still running when the first shot was fired. Driver Anthony Callan managed to escape and fled as the car crashed into the wall of a nearby house.

A shocked neighbour heard Hughes plead for his life as the gunman chased the taxi and fired three more shots, two into the neck and upper body of the GAA star.

The eye witness told police that Hughes shouted: “Please, don’t kill me” as the gunman fired the fatal shots before making his getaway in a van.

On Sunday night, a 32-year-old man from Inniskeen was being questioned by police about the shooting after he confessed to the murder at the Carrickmacross station in County Monaghan.

A legally held shotgun, which police believe was the murder weapon, was taken away for ballistic examination. Officers also seized a van used in the getaway.

Officers also reported that the young girl sustained facial and neck injuries while the taxi-driver was struck by shotgun pellets in the face, neck and upper body. Both are being treated in a Drogheda hospital.

Family and friends have been shocked by the murder, just months after Hughes’ mother died from Sudden Adult Death syndrome.

“It is so shocking. You couldn’t say a bad word about him,” one friend told the Irish Independent while Armagh footballer Steven McDonnell tweeted: “RIP James Hughes. Such a good lad. Totally shocking.”
 
Keady councillor Terry Hearty said: “The community is devastated. He was well known and well liked and he came from a very respectable family. It is their second tragedy after the sudden death of his mother.”

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