United in sorrow, shock and disbelief, a small Galway community bound in solidarity with a young woman and her bereft family came together to say a final goodbye yesterday.
There were harrowing scenes of agonising grief as Camogie player Kate Moran was laid to rest.
Friends, family and teammates of the adored 20-year-old from Monivea, Co Galway, packed together in stunned silence inside and outside the Sacred Heart Church.
Kate Moran, a third-year commerce student in NUIG, died on Tuesday after she suffered a fatal head injury during a camogie league game on Monday between Athenry and Ardrahan.
Her dad Cathal Moran, a former Galway hurler, told mourners at her funeral mass that he was close by his daughter when she was injured following an accidental collision with another player.
As her uncles and boyfriend TJ Brennan slowly walked her coffin to the altar, Kate’s parents, Cathal and Mary, and her siblings, Thady, Leah and Saoirse, clung to one another as they followed.
In a heart-rending tribute, Mr Moran said he hoped Kate his “beautiful and shining light” didn’t suffer in her final moments.
“We hope Kate, our love, didn’t suffer much. When this happened to her, I think it was quick,” he said.
“Mary and I are so proud to be your parents, Kate, and we loved you so much since the day you were born.
GAA players from Monivea, Athenry and Abbeyknockmoy lined the route from Kate’s home to the church.
Mr Moran remembered his daughter as always having a “pep in her step. She always had a lot of things to do”.
“In recent times, there was so much coming together for her – she had so much beauty in her life. She had so many strings to her bow. She had so many friends from so many circles of life,” he said.
“And she loved to have fun.”
Mr Moran, who runs a successful auctioneering business in Athenry, told the congregation he felt proud walking beside his daughter when she used to accompany him to work.
“Kate used to come into the office with me the odd time, and she would walk with me down to the office from the church car park," he said.
“That was a beautiful part of the day; I was so proud to have her walking shoulder-to-shoulder with me through the streets of Athenry.
“We used to have a great time in the office; neither of us wanted the phone to ring that much.
“She is 20 years of age, and she was going to be 21 in a few weeks.
“Mary, her mother, and Kate had planned a five-day break together in New York to celebrate that time. But sadly, that day didn’t come.”
Mr Moran said it was the everyday things like his daughter offering him a cup of tea and her “lovely smile” he would miss most.
“Once Kate came in the back door of our house, whether home from work or training, we were so happy to see her lovely smile.
"That was enough for us. It was all we wanted.”
Addressing Kate’s boyfriend TJ Brennan, a senior Galway hurler, Cathal said he was so sorry his time with Kate was cut short.
“To TJ, Kate’s boyfriend, he has been coming to our house for a couple of years now,” he said.
“We know she loved you, TJ, and she knew you loved her, and you had a marvellous time. We are so sorry that has stopped short.
“She was awful, awful fond of you, TJ, and I’m sorry if I got in your way some evenings.
“I know when I would come home in the evening, I’d be asking you about hurling, and I’d take up a good bit of your time,” he said.
“Mary and I and Kate’s sisters Leah and Saoirse and her brother Thady were so proud and privileged, Kate, to have you with us.
"You were such a darling girl and the most gorgeous beautiful girl.
“You are a shining light, and you were always smiling. You were endearing to everyone, Kate, and it was very easy to love you.
“We can’t do any more, Kate. There is no other choice; we have to let you go somewhere else, Kate. We hope that you are OK and at peace and that you know that we are absolutely always with you.
“Because we wouldn’t be able to do anything else ever again, Kate, if you weren’t with us.
“And you know the love that we had together, all of us.
“I don’t know how we are going to manage Kate, but we will have to work something out together, the six of us.”
Recalling his daughter’s talent, Cathal said he loved how she used to play hurling.
“She was a really lovely hurler, and I don’t mind saying that. We wouldn’t be boastful, and Kate wouldn’t be boastful – maybe we might boast between each other – but not outside that.
“She had beautiful wrists, and I used to love the way she used to hit the sliotar, getting that sort of trajectory.
“From all of us, Kate, I don’t know what to say; only you have given us the greatest of pleasure and happiness.
“And I can’t believe we are in this position; I can’t. But that picture upon the coffin there, we will always have that and always have Kate with us.
“And we will always love Kate, and we want to thank Kate for being the beautiful girl she always is and will be.”
Parish priest Fr Ronnie Boyle said the community “has been stunned into silence this past few days by this inconceivable, terrible, unfortunate accident”.
“Since learning of Kate’s death, probably like all of you, I have thought of little else,” he said.
“And perhaps, like all of you, the more I think about it, the less comprehensible Kate’s death becomes.
“Her death seems so utterly inappropriate; it violates our sense of order.
“For you as her parents, nothing becomes so indispensable as a child.
“From the moment Kate was born, and you held her in your arms for the first time, and her tiny fingers were entangled around your heartstrings.
“And to have them pulled away from you; the hurt, the pain, the anger is indescribable.
“Even if we did know the answers, your pain would not be any less or your sorrow any lighter,” he told her family.
“I ask you to remember one simple line: “life is changed, not ended.
“When you walk away at the end of this day, remember this: Kate’s life has changed, not ended.”