TRIBUTES have been paid to a South Belfast doctor known as a  pioneer of cardiac surgery in the city, as well as being an iconic Gaelic footballer.

Dr Hugh O'Kane (84) from Malone Park died at his home on Monday following a short illness.

Having attended St Patrick’s College in Armagh, he studied Physiology and Medicine at Queen's University Belfast and also graduated with a Master of Surgery from QUB in 1969.

His career and studies then took him from the Mater and City Hospitals in Belfast to the renowned Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and back to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was a cardiac surgeon from the early 1970s.

The gifted Gaelic footballer was captain of the first Queen's University team to win the Sigerson Cup in 1958/59. He also featured in seven Sigerson campaigns for the QUB GAA Club; his first was in November 1954.

By 1958, he was midfielder and captain of the team under the management of Paddy O'Hara that blazed a trail to victory over UCD in a final replay at Ballybay in 1959.

Hugh played his club football with Éire Óg Derriaghy and had a brief intercounty spell with Antrim.

In more recent times, he was a patron of the Sean O'Neill GAA Academy Fund since its foundation in 2004.

In a statement, Queen’s GAA said: “It is with profound sadness that we learn of the passing of Hugh O'Kane. He was an iconic figure in the annals of our club and Queen's sport.

“Dr Hugh O'Kane was a gifted sportsman and surgeon, whose leading role in the pioneering Queen's team of 1958/59 will ensure that he will always have a special place in the story of the Queen's club and the university.

“We extend our sympathy to his wife Briege and to his family and friends.”

Requiem Mass was celebrated on Wednesday, July 29, at St Brigid’s Church, Derryvolgie Avenue in Belfast with burial afterwards in Agherton Cemetery in Portstewart.