Stunned community gather for funeral of teenage GAA player Niall O'Connor

Schoolboy Niall O’Connor (14) whose funeral took place yesterday following his death on Thursday

A STUNNED community gathered in Co Down yesterday to pay their last respects of a 14 year-old schoolboy who died suddenly last week.

Hundreds of people gathered at St Patrick’s Church, Ballygalget to say their final farewells to Niall O'Connor.

There were emotional scenes as friends of the popular teenager from Ballygalget joined his parents John and Caroline and sister Ciara at Requiem Mass.

Niall was found unresponsive at his home last Thursday.

Members of Ballygalget GAA club, who rushed to the scene with a defibrillator, and emergency services, who transferred him by air ambulance to hospital, were unable to save his life.

A pupil at Our Lady and St Patrick’s, Knock, in Belfast, Niall excelled in GAA at school and was an active member of the Ballygalget hurling club.

He was described as an "outstanding young hurler" who had a "massive passion for the game".

But news of his death has plunged the local community into grief.

Ahead of the funeral Mass, parish priest Fr Patrick Mulholland told The Irish News that there was a "great weight and sadness over the whole community of Ballygalget" following the schoolboy's death.

"He was very well-known - a very popular young man, talented, a very gifted young man," he said.

"Academically he had it, personality he had it, a brilliant sportsman."

He added: "His parents, they’re just shocked, stunned and broken-hearted....their son was their pride and joy."

Ballygalget GAC also said it was "devastated" by the sudden death of Niall, a member at the club since the age of five.

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