MEMBERS of the Munster rugby squad will help carry the coffin of Donal Walsh at his funeral today.
Donal, who was a close friend of Munster and Ireland international Paul O'Connell, had inspired their recent Heineken Cup win over Harlequins, and left a lasting impression on the team who wanted to have a role in his funeral.
The coffin of the 16-year-old rugby fanatic will be carried the three miles from his home on Hare Street, Blennerville to St John's Church in Tralee for Requiem Mass at noon.
The popular teenager passed away at the family home on Sunday night after losing his battle with lung cancer, his third time to fight the disease since the age of 12.
"He has climbed his highest mountain now and is at peace," his dad Fionnbar told the Irish Independent yesterday.
Through tears, Mr Walsh, who is known locally as "Donal's dad", joked with mourners that they had known Donal "before he was famous".
Donal came to national prominence in April after he won a local hero award for his bravery.
But it was his message to other young people to cherish life and to seek help if they were suicidal that will be his lasting legacy.
Junior minister with responsibility for mental health, Kathleen Lynch, was among the mourners who called last night to pay her respects.
She said Donal had done more to prevent suicide among his peers than any politician had ever achieved.
Today, the funeral cortege will make its way from the family home through Lower Cannan and on to the Kerins O'Rahilly GAA club, where it will pause briefly on its way to the church.
A Kerins O'Rahilly GAA Club jersey was draped over Donal's coffin at his home yesterday, where he lay in repose. Donal was also a loyal member of Tralee Rugby Club and both clubs, united in grief, will take part in the funeral tomorrow. His family will also take part in his Requiem Mass, where his uncle, Fr Michael Walsh, will be one of the celebrants.
From the GAA club grounds on Strand Street, students from most of the schools in Tralee will form a guard of honour, lining the way to the town centre, which is expected to come to a standstill for the funeral.
Among the first to arrive at the Walsh family home yesterday was Kerry senior football manager, Eamon Fitzmaurice and players Killian Young, Bryan Sheehan, Kieran Donaghy and Marc O Se, who is a teacher at CBS The Green, where Donal was a past student.
Other mourners included south Kerry coroner and fellow anti-suicide campaigner, Terence Casey, businessman and 'Secret Millionaire' Jim Breen, and former Tanaiste and Labour leader, Dick Spring.
The most prominent group of mourners however, distinct in their grey uniforms, were Donal's former schoolmates from the CBS, who comforted each other outside the family home.