The young motorcycle star who was killed at a racing event in the Irish Republic had been living his dream when he died, mourners at his funeral have heard.
Biking enthusiasts from across Ireland were among the hundreds of mourners who gathered yesterday to pay their final respects to road racer Andrew Neill.
The 27-year-old from Newmills in Co Tyrone died after coming off his bike during a practice lap at the Walderstown Road Races on Sunday afternoon.
The cortege was escorted by nine motorcyclists as it made its way from the Neill family home to Eglish Presbyterian Church for the emotional service.
Outside the rural church a guard of honour was formed by representatives of Dungannon and District Motorcycling Club and the Marshal’s Association.
During the service Rev David Brown, himself a motorbike enthusiast, recalled meeting Andrew for the first time at the Isle of Man TT races last month.
“It was Andrew’s first time racing at the TT and I got the sense that he was fulfilling his ambition and his dream of racing,” he said.
“I never thought that I would be standing here one month later taking his funeral service.
“I was speaking to him in the pits and I found Andrew to be a really nice bloke.
“My heart pours out to Sharon and to Andrew’s mum and dad and family, and his many mates and biker friends. It also pours out to the other riders’ families who have lost loved ones, who will be reliving their personal tragedies.”
Rev John Kirkpatrick, joint chaplain to the Motorcycle Union of Ireland, also spoke about a career that promised so much.
“It was people like Andrew who make this sport so enthralling,” he told mourners. “This was a sporting story, a young man passionate about racing. His record speaks for itself, and yet Andrew had the potential for so much more.”
Andrew was also a member of the Moira Motorcycle Racing Club and its chairman Colin Walker recalled “an amazing person” and “a real good guy”.
He also read out a poem which Andrew wrote for his wife Sharon shortly after the couple met.
Following the service Andrew, survived by Sharon, parents Alfred and Muriel, brothers Denver and Alwyn and sister Jackie, was buried at Meeting House Green in Benburb.
His family has asked that donations in lieu of flowers be given to the Motorcycling Union of Ireland’s medical team and the injured riders’ welfare fund.