James Nolan funeral: Irish fan was one in a million
FOOTBALL fan James Nolan who died on a trip of a lifetime to Euro 2012 has been described as one in a million.
Hundreds of mourners poured onto the streets of his hometown of Blessington, Co Wicklow today and into the Church of Our Lady for the 21-year-old's funeral.
Among those paying respects to the engineering student were Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney and team captain Robbie Keane's wife Claudine.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins were represented by their respective aides Commandant Michael Treacy and Captain Louise Conlon.
Mr Nolan's sister Susie remembered her younger brother as someone who lived with "absolute contentment and love".
"Everybody is asking why out of millions of fans did this happen to James. But he was always one in a million and he always will be," she said.
"There is a lot of depression and darkness in everyday life but I think we can reflect and just learn from how James lived his life.
"He simply just lived and loved and that made him so happy. If everybody leaves here and makes that their train of thought - just live and love."
Mr Nolan's uncle Noel also paid tribute to the student, saying he could not believe the care and compassion with which he has been remembered at home and abroad since his body was recovered from a river in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz last week.
"This gave me a sense of pride to think the world thought James was so special," he said.
The uncle said Mr Nolan would probably "turn around with that big smile he always had on his face" if he knew what was happening.
"I never realised until a few days ago what it was about that smile, but now when I look at every photo he was in I see that smile of his," he added.
A wreath was placed on the roof of the hearse from Ireland footballer Keith Andrews.
"RIP James, you will always be in our hearts every time we play for Ireland," the card said.
Mr Nolan was described as a quiet young man who had a large group of friends, with a true passion for football.
His soccer trophies and Ireland jersey were among a string of gifts brought to the altar during the funeral Mass, along with a set of darts, playing cards and his PlayStation controls.
One of his friends read a poem written for Mr Nolan that described how excited he was to travel to Poland and how much craic he had hoped to have, and his cousin recited another saying how he would always be in everyone's minds.
Mr Nolan's father Jimmy and brother Andy carried the coffin from the church, followed closely behind by his mother Essie and sister Susie, who clutched one of his Manchester United jerseys.
Hundreds followed the procession to the nearby Burgage Cemetery where he will be laid to rest.
Mr Nolan drowned after falling into the river Brd in the northern city of Bydgoszcz, on the route thousands of Ireland fans followed between Poznan and Gdansk.
His body was recovered on Wednesday - four days after he went missing.
An post-mortem examination carried out in Poland found no physical injuries and indicated death by drowning.