Northern Ireland news

Funeral for Co Down student who died suddenly in the Holylands in Belfast

Talented gaelic footballer, Niall Laverty, from Saul in Co Down, died suddenly on Thursday at his student accommodation in the Holylands area of Belfast

Mourners will gather in Co Down tomorrow for the funeral of a talented young gaelic footballer who died suddenly just days after moving to Belfast to start university.

Niall Laverty, who was from Saul near Downpatrick, died on Thursday at his student accommodation in the Holylands area of south Belfast.

The 19-year-old, a former pupil at St Patrick's Grammar School in Downpatrick, had been due to commence a sports studies degree at the Ulster University at Jordanstown.

The vice-captain of his school’s gaelic football team, which won this year’s, MacLarnon Cup, Niall was a member of both Saul and Ballygalget gaelic clubs as well as Ballynagross FC.

In a statement posted on Facebook yesterday, Saul GAC described Niall as "a gem".

"Our whole community has lost a lad who we will all miss desperately. No words can express the sadness all of us feel at this time.

"Niall was a gem who had a word for everyone and a smile to go with it too. From Niall was able to walk he enjoyed nothing more than having a ball at his feet on the pitch at St Patrick’s Park wearing the club colours that his brother and sisters also wore with pride.

"His talent for sport was matched by his ability to be friendly to everyone and he spoke to young and old with his warmth and humour bringing a smile or chuckle to them all. On the pitch or off the pitch Niall was a Saul man to the core".

The club added: "Our hearts are broken. He will not be forgotten by any of us who had the privilege of meeting him. For all of us who knew him our lives are much less whole without him".

Niall was also a hurler for Ballygalget GAC in Portaferry.

His sudden death is the second such tragedy to affect the club in recent years following the sudden death of Niall O'Connor (14) in February 2018.

On Facebook yesterday, Ballygalget GAC described the sudden passing of Niall as "really tragic news".

"Niall’s second Club was Ballygalget and he will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and Saul GAC at this very difficult time. Rest in peace young Gael".

Portaferry GAC also posted on its Facebook page asking members to make time for one another.

"After hearing of the tragic passing of a young gael Niall Laverty from a neighbouring club Saul, its hard not to think of our young members within our own club. It's hard to bear thinking about even though it happens all too often.

"A lot of our young players would have known Niall through school, sport and socially and this tragic event I'm sure will leave a lasting effect. Take five minutes out of your busy schedule just to ask if they are alright, even a wee nudge, a nod and a smile, a friendly face so they know you are there if and when it's needed.

"Please do not suffer in silence. Speak to someone. A team mate, a coach, a manager, a committee member or even another club member. It may not solve your problem but it might ease the burden".

Requiem Mass for Niall will take place tomorrow at 1pm at St Patrick's Church, Saul. Interment will take place afterwards in the adjoining cemetery.

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