Tributes were paid today to the 16-year-old schoolboy who died suddenly at the weekend while playing football.
The body of Oisin McGuinness was returned to his family home in Newry yesterday while friends of the talented youngster rallied around his devastated family.
The popular teenager, a fifth year pupil at Abbey Grammar School collapsed while playing soccer on Saturday.
Despite being rushed to Daisy Hill Hospital, the teenager — who was known to his friends as Ozzy — could not be saved.
Fr Terry Rafferty described the youth as a keen sports fan, an excellent athlete and someone who had touched the hearts of his friends and family.
He said: “I met Joan and John, his parents, who are obviously totally heartbroken at learning of the reality of Oisin’s death. I think it is all the more devastating because when you go out to play a football match you expect to come home again.
“He was a fit young man, a great young footballer, and last night his parents were trying to come to terms with the whole tragedy.
“His remains arrived home yesterday afternoon and family and neighbours gathered there at the house showing great support.
“It was an occasion where words were very empty, it all seemed like noise. There was little one could do except turn to faith and prayer and prepare for the funeral which will take place tomorrow.”
Fr Rafferty continued: “When you go to the house, you immediately get a sense of his achievements.
“There are a number of trophies for all kinds of talents, not only in sport where he was excelling, but there were also awards for public speaking.
“You can also sense his extreme popularity among his friends. They were totally dumbfounded, rallying around and recounting stories of their memories.
“He was a person who wanted to gain some prestige as an elite athlete of his age and those who were actually playing with him at the time were saying that they were five nil up and the game was nearing the end and he was still saying that he wanted to score a goal.
“I think that symbolises him and his life. He had many goals and hopes and dreams and his friends recognised this.”
The internet home page of Abbey Grammar School featured a picture of Oisin in his school uniform with the words “died 14 March, RIP”.
It is thought he may have died as a result of a heart condition, similar to that suffered by Gaelic Football star Cormac McAnallen, a former Tyrone captain, and rugby player John McCall, who was Ireland's under-19 flanker at the time of his tragic death.
The McGuinness family has asked for any donations to be made to SADS, a support and research group into Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.
Councillor Colman Burns, the mayor of Newry and Mourne District Council, said his thoughts were with Oisin’s family.
He said: “Unfortunately it’s becoming all too common that young people involved in sport are dying suddenly and my thoughts are with this young man’s family at this time.
“Oisin was in the prime of his youth and on Saturday he was out playing a sport that he loved.
“Dying the way he did is an absolute tragedy and I’m sure everyone in Newry will be shocked and saddened to hear about his untimely death.”
Oisin, who is survived by his parents, Joan and John, and sister, Caoibhe, is to be buried in Monkshill cemetery following Requiem Mass in St Catherine’s Dominican Church tomorrow.