Northern Ireland news

Sporting stars open 'Stephen's Green' in memory of Co Down schoolboy

The McElroy family at Saturday's opening of Stephen's Green in Co Down
Andrew Madden

STARS of rugby, soccer and GAA came together in Co Down to open a new pitch in memory of a sports-mad schoolboy who died two years ago.

"Stephen’s Green" near Castlewellan was built following tireless fundraising by the McElroy family, who lost their 11-year-old son Stephen in 2015.

Former Ireland rugby international Simon Best and GAA stars Liam Doyle and Conor Lavery, lined out on Saturday to open the playing field next to Stephen's former school, St Mary's PS, Dechomet.

In March 2015, he was a fit and healthy P7 pupil and had just gained an 'A' in his transfer test and was expecting to start St Colman's College in Newry the following September.

He was taken to Daisy Hill Hospital after feeling too unwell to play a Saturday morning game with his soccer team, Rathfriland Youth, but was allowed to return home.

Just hours later he was rushed back to hospital where he died a short time later.

A coroner later ruled that he had died from a bowel condition.

In the wake of his death, the McElroy family founded SMART (NI) - The Stephen McElroy Appreciation and Remembrance Team - to raise money to build the sports pitch in his memory.

The Mayobridge band opened Saturday's ceremony, after which children were given the opportunity to play alongside some of Ireland’s most famous sporting stars.

An engraved stone at Stephen's Green

In a statement, the McElroy family thanked all those who had made the pitch a reality.

"We are so excited to be able to welcome such huge names from the sporting world to the opening of Stephen’s Green and we know that Stephen in particular would have been so proud to see those, for whom he had so much admiration, coming to his local area," they said.

"We are overwhelmed with the support we have received, not just with the official opening but with every fundraiser we have hosted to date and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped in any way to make our dream a reality."

The James Knox and Friends Bagpipers who took part in Saturday's ceremony, along with the Mayobridge band, after which children were given the opportunity to play alongside some of Ireland’s most famous sporting stars

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