TRIBUTES have been paid to a much-loved darts player who tragically collapsed and died while playing in a local match.

The death of popular dad-of-two Neil McAfee, 58, has shocked the local community.

His grief-stricken team-mates and friends on the circuit today spoke of the devastating loss of a great family man, friend and gentleman.

A one-minute silence was held at all fixtures across the area in Neil's memory, with a former Inverclyde League organiser today leading the tributes.

Dave McKinnon, who had known Neil for 40 years, said: "We are all just in the most terrible shock to lose Neil.

"Our hearts go out to his family, his wife and his sons at this sad time.

"He was just the loveliest man.

"He was a great player and a great person.

"There was a minute's silence at all the matches.

"We will always remember Neil, and his best friend Brian who died suddenly a few years ago."

Mr McKinnon says officials from the local league will look at establishing a permanent tribute to their friend, a former IBM worker.

Former league secretary Dave also praised the two players who tried desperately to save Neil when he collapsed at St Laurence's Social Club during a match on April 30.

His friend Sammy Cooley had played with Neil for 30 years and together their teams had much success across Inverclyde and Renfrewshire.

They played for some of the district's top teams including the Flying Horse in Barrhead, which was by invitation only.

Latterly they started up a team together in the Tail O' The Bank bar with Sammy as captain.

He says Neil's death has left many people distraught.

Sammy, 62, a taxi driver, said: "We are all devastated.

"The night I heard he had died, if tears were words I honestly could write a book.

"Neil was younger than me but I looked up to him.

"He was a gentleman.

"He never criticised anyone and always encouraged people when they were playing.

"Neil had three things in his life - his family, who always always came first, his football team Celtic, who were second, and his darts.

"In darts there would be weekends away but Neil was not interested, he cared about being with his wife May and his boys."

Neil, from Southfield Avenue, worked for Vascutek in Inchinnan.

He is survived by his wife May, sons Kevin and Steven and grandchildren Lauren and Josh.

He grew up in Iona Road with his three sisters Sheila, Elizabeth and Grace, who passed away several years ago.

From a young age he showed a flair for darts.

Sammy said: "Neil was one of the best I have ever played with.

"We went on a 15 year unbeaten run.

"He also holds a record with a nine darter in Greenock."

Neil's team-mates from the darts community joined his family and friends at his funeral in Holy Family Church, Port Glasgow on May 13.

Sammy, who knew him for 30 years, added: "Nobody had a bad word to say about Neil in life.

"I am a taxi driver and I used to pick up at his work in Inchinnan and when you mentioned Neil, everyone knew him and loved him.

"I have never seen a send off like it at his funeral.

"There were so many people there."