GAA players form guard of honour for tragic Kevin O'Hare
Friends of a rising GAA star who touched the lives of his community formed a guard of honour at his funeral yesterday.
Kevin O'Hare was swimming with friends in a disused quarry on a balmy afternoon on Saturday when he got into difficulty.
The 15-year-old struggled in the water as a friend ran to raise the alarm.
Colin Polland, a 39-year-old father of two from nearby Newcastle, jumped into the deep waters of the former granite quarry to try and save the schoolboy. But he lost his life in the struggle to save the 15-year-old, who also perished in the double tragedy.
Pupils of St Malachy's High School, where Kevin O'Hare was a Year 11 pupil, joined children from St Michael's Primary School and members of Dromara GAA club in a guard of honour, which stretched from the church's gates to its entrance.
The road to St Michael's Church, Finnis, which sits on a hillside above Dromara, was busy from mid-morning with mourners travelling to the quiet Co Down village to pay their respects to the well-known teenager. A sign warning 'slow, funeral in progress' sat on the roadside near the church from early morning.
The midday sun beat down as hundreds of mourners, young and old, waited inside and outside the church for the hearse carrying the body of the popular schoolboy.
One of the pallbearers who carried Kevin's coffin into the packed church was the teenager's father. He was followed by his three brothers.
Also among them was Kevin's heartbroken mother, Donna, who led a column of mourners into the packed church.
Father Peter McNeill said the schoolboy was a rising star in local GAA circles.
The Dromara teenager reached out to those around him during his short life, he added.
"There was something about him that touched the lives of others," Fr McNeill said.
He was also a devoted son, mourners heard.
"He always let his mummy know how special she was," Fr McNeill added.
Tributes were also paid to father-of-two Colin Polland, who died trying to save the teenager he had never met.
Around 15 miles away, mourners gathered for the 39-year-old's funeral in St Patrick's Church, Bryansford, at 1pm yesterday.
As at St Michael's Church, loudspeakers were erected outside the church for mourners who came from far and wide for the funeral.
Fr John-Joe Cunningham relayed the Polland family's condolences to Kevin's loved ones, following the double tragedy.
Colin Polland, who had lived in London for more than a decade, was enjoying a short break with his family near Paul's Quarry on the outskirts of Annalong when he heard cries for help from Kevin O'Hare's friend on Saturday afternoon.
He immediately responded, diving into the former granite quarry in a brave attempt to rescue Kevin.
In Dromara, meanwhile, Fr Peter McNeill said Kevin O'Hare was loved dearly by his family and community.
He was "so loved and so loving", he told mourners, many of whom had to stand outside the church due to the large crowd.