TWO footballs -- one large with black stars, the other small with white stars, were carried to the altar during the funeral Mass of gaelic footballer Raymond Daniels.
They summed up his twin loves in life: sport and his two-year-old son.
Mourners choked back tears of grief as "Daddy's ball and Ben's ball" were yesterday carried proudly by his brother Shane, to rest beside his coffin.
The 27-year-old goalie died suddenly last Saturday night while on his way to Naas for a night out with friends. In the taxi he complained of being short of breath and was brought to Naas Hospital -- he died in the early hours of Sunday from what is believed to have been a heart attack.
Raymond had just received the all-clear from doctors last week, having undergone six weeks of dialysis after contracting a virus which caused one of his kidneys to fail.
The hugely talented goalkeeper who had lined out for his county had been due back at training after a torn groin injury kept him away from football since last April.
Last Thursday, he had received a text from a friend asking him if he was ready to be number one again. Raymond's reply was that he was more than happy to be number three. The town came to a standstill yesterday as hundreds of mourners joined the procession down Blessington main street as his coffin was taken from the church for burial at Burgage cemetery.
Heartbreak; devastation; tough to take; one of the very best. These were the words used by the stunned community to describe their feelings following the player's sudden death, former chairman of Blessington GAA, Michael Sargent said.
Raymond's grieving fiancee, Linda Carroll; mother, Theresa; father, Brendan; brothers Shane and Jonathan; and grandmother Sara Leigh were joined by mourners who packed Our Lady's Church in Blessington to standing point.
Parish priest Fr Tim Murphy told them the theme of the Mass was 'You'll never walk Alone', as a tribute to Raymond's great love of Liverpool FC.
Describing Raymond's death as a 'terrible tragedy', he added: "You shouldn't have died so young."
Together with the two footballs, gifts of Raymond's goalkeeper jersey and gloves were brought to the altar, along with his Wicklow jersey, football trophies, a Liverpool jersey and his Blessington AFC jersey.
Delivering the eulogy, Michael Sargent described Raymond as "one of the most agreeable fellows you would ever meet in your life".
He was known by all his friends as 'Rashers' -- even GAA legend and Wicklow manager Mick O'Dwyer had called him that."He worked his socks off," Mr Sargent said.
Tributes were then read aloud, with Raymond remembered as "a great person, a great father and a loyal friend" by Justin Curran, a local man living in Kentucky.
And to the melancholy air of 'You Raise Me Up,' sung by friend Jenny Foster, the coffin was carried from the church and down the main street, amid a guard of honour from the local GAA club, in their jerseys of black and blue.