Belfast Telegraph

Town at standstill as hundreds mourn camogie star Karen Coyle

By Patrice Dougan

The seaside town of Ballycastle came to a standstill as hundreds of people came out to pay their respects at the funeral of the well-known camogie player who was missing for nearly two weeks.

Karen Coyles (47) disappeared on September 11, sparking a massive land and sea search along the north coast before her body washed up in Scotland last week.

Yesterday hundreds of people lined the streets as the funeral cortege made its way around the town she loved, stopping to mark places that were important to her, including McQuillan’s GAA club.

Karen was the chairwoman of the club’s camogie team and had just returned from Dublin where her team had won the All-Ireland camogie sevens on the night before her disappearance.

Her love for the sport was echoed throughout her funeral — from her goalkeeper’s camogie jersey lying on top of her coffin to the huge number of fellow players from various teams who turned up to show their respects.

As the funeral cortege left her sister Natalie’s house in the Everglades area of Ballycastle, the street was lined with McQuillan’s players in their team jerseys. Her father Raymond, step-mother Margaret, sisters Natalie, Deirdre and Jacqueline and their husbands and families, and other close relatives, followed close behind in three Community Rescue Service minibuses as the hearse made its way along Clare Road and onto Whitepark Road.

The cortege continued onto Ramoan Road to Karen’s house — passing on its route the cliff-top location where sniffer dogs traced her last movements — where it was then carried to the Church of St Patrick and St Brigid.

As Karen’s devastated family and friends followed behind it, comforting each other, they were lined on each side by camogie players from McQuillan’s in their distinctive yellow and black hooped jerseys.

They took turns to help carry the coffin, along with other members of the GAA club and members of the Community Rescue Service, who helped search for Karen.

People stopped in the streets as the cortege came by, and as it approached the church members of other camogie clubs in their team jerseys lined the entrance, the grief visible on their faces.

Family friend Fr Ciaran Dallat led the funeral Mass with co-celebrant Fr Brian Daly.

The church was filled to capacity as Fr Dallat described Karen as a “loving and devoted daughter and sister”.

Her death had left “an emptiness” in the hearts of her family, friends and wider Ballycastle community, he said.

Remembering Karen from school, Fr Dallat told stories from Karen’s life that raised a few laughs among the mourners, including how her three sisters resorted to “coercion” to get the natural tomboy into bridesmaid’s dresses for their weddings.

But there was a softer side to Karen that she only showed to her friends, he said, revealing Karen wrote “beautiful pieces of poetry” and gave them as gifts to those she loved.

A book of her poems was offered among a number of gifts carried to the altar, which represented how she brought “joy and comfort to others”.

Her camogie stick and ball, an Ireland rugby jersey and a golf club, as well as family photographs, were also included in the offertory gifts to represent her love of sport, how she encouraged others to participate in a diverse range of sports, her involvement in charities and her love of family.

Towards the end of the Mass one of her team-mates read ‘A Camog’s Prayer’. Before the Mass ended Fr Dallat, on behalf of the Coyles family, thanked the community for their help in searching for Karen and the support they had given before and after her body was found.

He finished by saying they took “comfort in the knowledge that Karen is now safe in the arms of her beloved mother”.

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