Davitt Walsh receiving his award from Claire Brock and Alyson Comyn
Davitt Walsh, whose bravery and quick-thinking saved a baby girl after a car went off a pier in one of Ireland's worst tragedies, has been honoured at the Pride of Ireland awards.
On the evening of Sunday, March 20, the well-known footballer from Kerrykeel and his girlfriend Stephanie Knox were at Buncrana when a car lost traction on the slipway and went into the water. Inside was a family from Derry who were enjoying a day out.
Davitt plunged into the water, swam out to the car and managed to rescue 4-month old Rioghnach-Ann.
The car's other five occupants - the baby's father Sean McGrotty, brothers Evan (8) and Mark (12), her grandmother Ruth Daniels and aunt Jodie-Lee Tracey (14) - all perished.
Rioghnach-Ann's mother, Louise James, was in England at the time. She has met Davitt and expressed her heartfelt gratitude.
The judges of the Pride of Ireland awards said of his bravery, “Davitt didn’t think twice about risking his own when he waded into Lough Swilly.
“His heroic actions in saving little Rioghnach-Ann has offered a vital chink of light in the darkest of times.
“His modest heroism has rightly been the source of admiration throughout Ireland and further afield.
He is the Pride of Ireland.”
Receiving the award last night, 30-year old Davitt told the audience, many of whom were in tears, “In all honesty I don’t feel like a hero at all. I only wished at the time I could have done more.”
He described how close he feels to the little girl he saved.
"There is a special connection there that won’t be broken. I want to be part of Rioghnach-Ann’s life and I want to see her growing up."
Even more, he's already doing practical things to help.
In May, Davitt joined a number of other runners, including Rioghnach-Ann's mum Louise, to run the Belfast Marathon. They were raising funds for Muscular Dystrophy UK in memory of little Evan, who was affected y the debilitating condition.
Davitt's also organised a charity event that raised €7,200 for Rioghnach-Ann.
"That's just the start of it," he commented. "I want to have an education fund put aside for when she turns 18 or 20.
“Hopefully, we’ll raise up to £20,000 and that will be her future after finishing school to make sure she is looked after."