A teenager who died in a freak accident while hurling during a lunchtime break was laid to rest just metres from where he began his school days.
Harry Byrne, 13, from Gowran, Co Kilkenny, was rushed to St Luke’s General Hospital on Monday afternoon after being accidentally hit while playing with friends in the grounds of St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny city.
The first year student and talented sports enthusiast, who had a promising hurling career ahead of him, passed away the following day.
The teenager was laid to rest in the Church of the Assumption cemetery opposite Scoil Mhuire national school on Church Road where he attended.
The teenager is survived by his parents Fergal and Annette, and three siblings Jake, Aimee and Sam, his grandparents Teresa Byrne, Martin and Mary Nolan.
Harry’s St Kieran’s College classmates attended the midday Requiem Mass, which was delayed by 30 minutes, as did his Young Shamrocks hurling club and soccer club friends along with representatives from numerous county sports organisations. He had recently tried-out for the Kilkenny County under-13 hurling development team.
His simple oak coffin was adorned with his Young Shamrocks red and white jersey as the pall-bearers entered the packed Church followed by his parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as a soloist filled the air with hymns.
A guard of honour was provided by his primary, secondary and sports clubs friends as hundreds of mourners gathered outside the 19th Century Church to pay their respects in person.
Heart of gold
Parish priest Fr Patrick D’alton, who concelebrated the Mass with apolistic administrator Bishop of Ossory and patron of St Kieran’s College Denis Nulty and six other priests, told those gathered in the rural church and more than 3,000 people who watched the service online that, “When someone dies, especially when someone dies so young and so unexpectedly there is literally nothing that we can say.
“There are literally no words that will ease this pain. All we are left with are questions and hurt. What [we] do then is, when words fail us, is offer you our support just by our presence and by our prayers.”
Harry’s aunt Emma recounted how the symbols of his life placed on the altar represented his life to the full. A hurl represented his, love of all sports, hurling, soccer, golf and rugby, a family picture showing his close-knit family, a whoopee cushion, showing his love of well executed jokes.
A games' controller, a symbol of his strong bond with all of his friends online, bike riding and on the pitch, a school tie showed his love for national and secondary school, his books which represented his love of reading, his Bible which he read with his parents in his younger years.
Finally, a heart of gold, which his aunt Emma explained how “our beautiful Harry touched our hearts with his warm, beautiful and kind spirit.” A white floral gerbera bouquet in his name also lay with the symbols.
His other aunts Maeve and Marlyn gave the short readings while his sister Aimee, school friends and sports teammates offered prayers for the faithful.
Part of a team
In his homily Fr D’alton said: “St Kieran’s college is our home of hurling. We smile when we hear this as we would never say it about ourselves. His group of friends who were with him created a circle around him to protect him. They gathered around him because they loved him.
“Teams and team sports are amazing things to watch, they are even a greater joy to be part of. We don’t ever stop, to break down or analyse why these teams are so important, we just know it to be true. We know that being on a team is so much fun. We like being in the middle of the action, being part of the group, we like being the one who is relied on we like being in a familiar setting,
“It is wonderful being involved in a team others depend on. Harry hurled recently at left half forward, proudly wearing the number 12 jersey in Gowran’s county final win.
“You can’t hurl at 12 and not [have] mid-field hurling you ball, you can’t hurl at 12 and not have a halfback line depending on you to be there for a pass or goalie searching for you for every other puck out.
“You can’t hurl at 12 and not have a manager demanding points, supporters crying for runs and full forwards lazily expecting you to do all the work to deliver them the perfect pass for that simple finish. You can’t hurl at 12 the next 50/50 ball.You can’t hurl at 12 if you can’t give it your all.
“It is often only after they are pulled up that we realise the loss they are, how much we relied on them, how much that we didn’t them, how great a part of our lives that they were. So it was with the death of Harry and the accident that happened on Monday.”
Doing what he loved
Fr D’alton explained that Harry at that very moment on Monday, he was with his closest friends doing what he loved, “surrounded by them, chatting with them, playing with them, hurling with them, joking with them and laughing with them.
“And then so suddenly and unexpectedly his death on Tuesday has left us bereft. It is natural that this week that the events eventually unfolded that we would begin to realise the immense contribution Harry made in our lives.
“We recall why it is we loved him, how it is that we first met him, what it is that he used to do. We start telling story of the manner in which he was such an important player in our lives at home, in the club, on the team and in school as a friend.
“Harry reminds us that a life is not defined by the length of days rather the fullness of our lives are defined by the quality of those days. Harry reminds of the fullness of the life that he led, the manner in how he lived those days and ultimately the legacy that he leaves. A life well lived.
“He loved family and friends, how he loved sitting with Sparky the dog, his impish smile, his love of sport, rugby, soccer, golf, his beloved hurling and playing on the Under 14 hurling team. A student a classmate, one who was always smiling and laughing and always ready for the craic. A friend described him as a shining star.”
At the end of the Mass his godparent's aunt Michelle Byrne and uncle John Nolan recounted how Harry’s father Fergal announced his birth in 2008 as calling him “Happy” instead of, "Harry which defined the person, the entrepreneur he turned out to be and the person everyone loved. This last summer was one of Harry’s best. Harry loved his sport and the sports clubs loved him.
“Thirteen years is no time at all. We won’t think this as a goodbye but as a see you later,” they added as the 80-minute ceremony drew to a close.
Hundreds of messages from home, Australia, the UK and US have been left on the funeral service website rip.ie from the public, current and former hurling greats including Kilkenny’s senior hurler Walter Walsh who wrote: “Deepest condolences to all the Byrne family. Our thoughts are with you during this time,
Galway’s former centre forward Joe Canning added: “So sorry for your loss, may he Rest In Peace.”
Tipperary’s former manager and senior full forward Nicky English said: “My sincere sympathy to the parents, brothers, sister and all Harry's family, friends, and all at his school and Gowran club. Our thoughts are with you all at this terrible time. May Harry rest in peace”.