'Forever young. Forever our hero' - Scores of students attend funeral of Shay (15) who lost life in double drowning tragedy
The 15-year Ennis Junior Cert student who lost his life while trying to save the life of his friend in a double drowning tragedy has been described as “a most extraordinary and inspirational young man”.
Addressing mourners at a packed St Peter & Paul Cathedral in Ennis, Fr Ger Fitzgerald also said that Shay Moloney “had the heart of a warrior”.
Last Thursday, third year student at St Flannan’s College, ‘brave' and 'courageous’ Shay drowned when trying to save the life of his friend, Jack Kenneally (15) in a lake at a disused quarry at Knockanean outside Ennis.
Scores of Junior Cert students due to commence their exams on Wednesday returned to the Church for the second funeral in as many days after attending the funeral of Jack on Sunday.
Outside the Church was once more the scene of heartrending images as Shay’s friends wept and comforted each other while students from St Flannan’s College and players from Ennis RFC and Shay and Jack’s u15 Young Munster rivals formed a guard of honour while Shay's remains in a white coffin draped with purple ribbon passed by.
Both boys were born in January 2003 and were friends since primary school where they attended the Holy Family School in Ennis and this year the two ‘Brothers in Arms’ played starring roles in the Ennis u15 rugby team.
In his tribute to Shay, his uncle, Louie told mourners that the family “is completely heartbroken” that Shay is not around to enjoy the warm tributes from the rugby world.
He said: “There have been touching tributes in recent days from the IRFU and Irish rugby teams wearing black arm bands while playing and messages of support from professional rugby players that would simply have lit up Shay’s world. Shay would have been in his element, the centre of attention.”
Mr Moloney went on: “Shay, sleep the long sleep. Always remember that your Mammy loves you more than life and your family loves you more than life. Sleep peaceful now Shay. Forever young. Forever our little warrior. Forever our hero.”
Mr Moloney said that “Shay’s personality had that x-factor where everyone left him feeling special due to his rogueish and outgoing personality.”
He said: “We were so proud of Shay and the person he had become. He had recently sprouted into a young man with all the qualities to take on the world - the world was at his feet with the great family support that Shay had.”
In his tribute, Fr Fitzgerald recalled meeting Shay during his Confirmation year in a classroom at the Holy Family School across the road from the Cathedral.
The priest recalled: “Shay had not the slightest bit of interest in what I was saying and instead was ripping up a piece of paper to put on a ruler.”
Fr Fitzgerald said that Shay fired the piece of paper with the ruler but didn't hit the intended target of a classmate and instead “hit me on the head instead”.
Fr Fitzgerald said: “He looked at me with his extraordinary smile, almost laughing at me and said ‘Sorry about that Father”.
Later that year when Shay was about to be anointed with Confirmation Oil, Shay quipped to Fr Fitzgerald: “Will this mess up my hair?”
Fr Fitzgerald said that what has happened “has no words - it is horrible and awful and our hearts are ripped apart”.
Fr Fitzgerald said that Shay’s friends were his whole life and everything to him.
Addressing the hundreds of teenagers decked out in the St Flannan’s College uniform and Ennis RFC colours, Fr Fitzgerald said: “It is okay not to be okay and I would encourage you to hold your head high like Shay would.
He said: “Look after one another like Shay would and mind one another like Shay would and help one another like Shay would. Feel courageous like Shay was and love life like Shay did. Always remember to respect everyone like Shay did and be proud of who you are like Shay was.”
Fr Fitzgerald said that Shay “was a level headed young man, an example of how to live your life and when anyone had a worry or a problem he would always want to remedy it”.
Some of the symbols of Shay’s life brought to the altar included a family photo, a rugby ball, his rugby boots, concert tickets and his rugby bag.
Louie Moloney later told the congregation: “Shay crammed more into his 15 years than most do in a lifetime. Shay was a character in every sense of the word with a bubbly personality and a cheeky grin for everyone.
He said: “There was more than a hint of devilment in that grin and he had two blue eyes that could light up the world. Shay was loved by those who met him. His circle of friends was immense. He had a happy personality that was contagious and he had a way of dealing with people of all ages and they were always falling for his charms.”
Shay Moloney was later laid to rest at Drumcliffe cemetery outside Ennis where the remains of his friend, Jack Kenneally were laid to rest 24 hours earlier.