Friday 9 December 2016

Dublin GAA club pays tribute to team-mate (20) who died after fall in Tanzania

The funeral of Govan Jolliffe-Byrne has taken place today in his native Portmarnock, in North County Dublin

Ryan Nugent

Published 22/08/2015 | 15:25

Govan Jolliffe Byrne is in the centre of the picture. His team mate has his arm around him. Saturday 14 February 2015. U21 Dublin Football 'C' Final. Parnells: Na Fianna v Naomh Mearnóg. Mearnóg celebrate.
Govan Jolliffe Byrne is in the centre of the picture. His team mate has his arm around him. Saturday 14 February 2015. U21 Dublin Football 'C' Final. Parnells: Na Fianna v Naomh Mearnóg. Mearnóg celebrate.

On the eve of the funeral of tragic backpacker Govan Jolliffe-Byrne his team-mates remembered a larger-than-life character who “could’ve played for Dublin”.

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Mr Jolliffe-Byrne (20), from Portmarnock, died after falling from a balcony at a nightclub while touring Tanzania on Sunday. His body returned to Ireland on Thursday.

Tragedy: Govan Jolliffe-Byrne
Tragedy: Govan Jolliffe-Byrne

His funeral, a humanist service, takes place at the Naomh Mearnog club today. Club chairman Michael Hannon said it was a “fitting tribute”.

Up to 300 seats were placed inside the main hall of the clubhouse, with standing space for another 300 people ahead of today’s service.

Govan moved to Dublin from South Africa in 2008 and was a major character within the club from the beginning, according to Mr Hannon.

He said it was an honour that his family accepted the offer from the club to host the funeral, with Govan set to be cremated at a private ceremony.

“It’s a fitting tribute and we’re really honoured to provide the facilities to the family. He’s been so heavily involved with the club since he moved over here.

“He really embraced GAA since moving over to Dublin and played a pivotal role in helping Naomh Mearnog win an under-21 championship last year and the Dublin senior team was in his sights.

“We’ve already said how well liked he was and that he was the life and soul of the party, but from what I’m hearing from a lot of people involved in the club he could have been a contender to be involved in the Dublin team,” Mr Hannon said.

“But I think it’s more the way he brought people together within the club and especially the senior team, because we have a mix of young players and more experienced players and he was very good at bringing the younger guys together with the older guys,” he added.

Mr Hannon told the Herald that Govan gained the respect of the senior players because of his friendly, outgoing personality.

“He was a bit of a messer, and you’d hear all sorts of funny stories, but in a good way,” he said.

Govan was also a very distinguished chess player and had previously taught Mr Hannon’s son.

He had completed his first year as a computer science student at Maynooth University, and travelled to East-Africa with his friend Gary O’Donoghue. The pair had planned to visit Kenya this week.

Reposing took place at Stafford’s Funeral Home, Portmarnock, yesterday evening with queues of people looking to pay their respects to the tragic victim.

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