NI football says a final goodbye to Davy Smyth
Family and footballing colleagues gathered yesterday to pay their respects at the funeral of Larne and Ballymena United hero Davy Smyth.
While with the Braidmen in 1981, he became the youngest player to win an Irish Cup final medal, aged just 17.
He was also part of the Larne team that famously claimed the Ulster Cup in 1987.
The charismatic midfielder's distinctive long hair and beard made him an instantly recognisable figure to football fans.
Following his sporting days he went on to enjoy a successful business life, helping to found the Xtra-vision video rental empire.
In 2015 he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, and passed away on Christmas night aged just 53 after an 18-month battle with the illness.
Yesterday almost 1,000 mourners filled All Saints' Church in Ballymena, with standing room only for many.
Following the Requiem Mass, the burial was held in Cushendall Road Cemetery.
Fr Darren Brennan, who gave the homily, told the Belfast Telegraph that Davy "lit up a lot of people's lives, he was a joyful person and a happy character".
Among those attending was veteran sports reporter Jackie Fullerton.
Larne team-mates including captain Paul Carland, Tommy Sloan, Paul Hardy and Ian Bustard, all of whom shared the 1987 Ulster Cup victory, were also in attendance.
Representing Ballymena was former manager Alex McKee, as well as current assistant manager Brian McLaughlin.
Despite his serious illness Davy continued to play for the Northern Ireland veterans team well into this year. Former Irish League footballer Geoff Ferris, a PSNI detective who played in the side with him, was also among mourners.
During the Mass friends celebrated his sporting life by laying a red and white Larne shirt with 'Smyth' and the number six at the front of the church.
Speaking after the service, Fr Brennan said the high turnout "reflected all the aspects of Davy's very rich life experiences from the sporting world to the business world".
He added: "Davy had developed the talents God gave him to the utmost capacity.
"He mightn't have lived a long life but he lived a very full life. In a sense, during Davy's sickness the true quality of his friendships forged over the years proved their worth.
"So many have stood by him and were supportive of him, including the Larne football team from 1987 and many others."
Earlier this week Mr Fullerton said: "To my memory, Davy had only played a couple of games for the first (Ballymena) team when fortune smiled on him.
"Midfielder Tony McCall couldn't recover in time for the 1981 Irish Cup final against Glenavon, so at the age of just 17 Davy was drafted in by manager Alan Campbell.
"And that day Davy became part of the club's folklore, being a member of that team to bring the trophy back to The Showgrounds. He was a very pleasant man, and to lose good people like Davy at such a young age is hard to come to terms with."