Family of young Belfast footballer (12) who died after heart surgery ask mourners to wear team colours
THE family of a 12-year-old boy from north Belfast who died from complications after heart surgery have asked mourners attending his funeral to wear the colours of his beloved football teams.
Devastated relatives of Sean Hamilton from the New Lodge area also said they want to "celebrate his life" by holding a special event in his memory following his funeral on Saturday.
A pupil at St Gerard’s School in west Belfast, Sean is understood to have suffered a massive heart attack after an operation at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin and died on Sunday.
A dedicated member of St Patrick's Football Club since the age of four, club chairman Patrick Downey described the young boy's death as "devastating".
"Sean faced everything head on, he was such a brave lad," he said.
Mr Downey said "football was in Sean's blood".
"He was a good kid and a good footballer, he was known as the quiet man until you put a football at his feet, super strong and committed," he said.
But he said there were "genetic problems on both sides of Sean's family that caused heart problems".
"All Sean wanted to do was play football," he said.
"His last season was 2017/18 when he played for the 07s Panthers and his wee squad in their first campaign won the league and cup double.
"He played that full season but then it started to take his toll, we didn't know if it was because of the high standard he was playing at or what.
"So we flagged it up with the family and they took him to the hospital for an early check-up. The doctors were horrified at how much his condition had deteriorated.
"We were all shocked."
In recent months, Sean underwent treatment and Mr Downey said "he faced every hurdle with his chest out, he just wanted to be back out on that football pitch".
"His main valves were clogged and closed so he had two minor operations to put stents in," he said.
"The last operation was because the major artery to the heart needed widened, he came through the operation OK.
"But four hours after he took a massive heart attack," he said.
Mr Downey said surgeons worked frantically for 40 minutes to revive him but "his brain was starved of oxygen".
"It's just heart-wrenching," he said.
The club coach said Sean's family want to "to celebrate the memory of their beloved son" following his tragic death.
They have asked mourners at his funeral, which will take place at St Patrick's Church at 9.30am on Saturday, to wear green colours for St Patrick's FC or red for Manchester United.
In a bid to honour him, a special event will be held later that day at Girdwood Community Hub from 1pm.
"It's a way of the community coming together to celebrate his life," said Mr Downey.
Among the many tributes paid to Sean was from his school principal, Stephen Ramsey, who described him as a "highly valued member of our year eight group".
"Sean was a beautiful, kind young lad who was exceptionally popular with his peers and the staff alike," he said.
"Sean was a highly talented sportsman but his most outstanding quality was his modest and unassuming personality that drew warmth and affection from all who knew or met him."