Avid athlete and hurler Donal (14) now 'in hands of the Great Referee'
Mourners at the funeral of tragic Donal English-Hayden yesterday remembered a vibrant young boy full of passion for sport and for life.
The 14-year-old lost his life in a farm accident, involving a tractor and trailer, in the rural Co Carlow village of Rathoe on Wednesday afternoon.
The accomplished athlete was buried after a funeral mass in Saint Patrick's Church in the village where he was reared.
Fr Conn O Maoldhomhnaigh was the chief celebrant of the Mass and Bishop Denis Nulty sent a message of support to his heartbroken parents, Matt and Noeleen, and his siblings.
"Since last Wednesday, the news of the tragic death of Donal, following a farm accident, has caused much sadness in the lives of so many people in this wonderful rural community of Rathoe, in the parish of Ballon," his message read.
In his homily, Fr O Maoldhomhnaigh described Donal as a sports fanatic who had a "zest and passion" for life.
He told mourners how the teenager had a love for nature and animals, cows and rabbits in particular.
"Last Wednesday, a fear and trembling gripped us all when we heard that Donal had died as a result of a most unfortunate, unexpected and sudden accident," the priest said.
"Our thoughts turned to his family. We asked how anyone could cope with such a loss as this," he added.
Hundreds attended yesterday's ceremony, including a large number of his school friends and many sporting teammates who provided a guard of honour.
Offerings to the altar included symbols of his short but colourful life, including a toy cow, medals and his hurley.
There was laughter after the priest described Donal's "run-ins" with referees on the GAA pitch.
"It was said of Donal that due to his sometimes vigorous playing on the pitch that he became known to many a referee. Now he has his hand in the hand of the Great Referee. I don't know what kind of cards they have in heaven, whether they have the black, the yellow or the red, but I am sure Donal is making the case for there being no need for any cards at all," the priest said.
"I'm sure in Donal's case it will be a green card, green for go. To go deeper and deeper into heaven where they only have the best cows, the best behaved rabbits, the kind of plants that he will only have to plant and that will water themselves, the top of the range red sauce and an eternal supply of jelly and ice-cream."
Delivering an emotional eulogy, his father Matt said his family is drawing comfort from the support shown by the community and thanked them for their kindness in recent days.