Former Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin last night spoke of his “horror” on learning of the death of Nevin Spence, his father and his brother.
“I am lost for words,” said the man who gave the centre all 42 of his Ulster appearances.
“It is terrible, absolutely awful. This is a real tragedy and your heart just goes out to Nevin’s mother. How does she begin to cope with having lost her husband and two sons and nearly losing her daughter?” he said.
“What must she be thinking? How does anybody begin to cope with something as terrible as that?
“It really is heartbreaking and I am so sorry to have heard this dreadful news.
“Having worked with Nevin, I just want to pay tribute to him for the efforts he always made for me and for Ulster Rugby. He was a great young man and he is going to be very sadly missed.
“Obviously, to his mother and the rest of the family, my heart goes out.”
Highlighting the potential Nevin had, his former coach said: “There is no doubt that he would have played for Ireland. I remember watching him at school when he was at Wallace and I was coaching Inst.
“Then, from school, he came to Ballynahinch and I had a wee bit of influence over him there, too.
“Ballynahinch are a very close-knit club and I know they must be absolutely distraught at this news. They will really be feeling this and it is going to be very hard for them, as a club, to get over it.”
He also revealed that he had been to church on the Ards Peninsula yesterday morning when his rector — himself a native of Hillsborough — devoted his entire sermon to what had happened.
“At the minute it’s very difficult to focus on anything other than what has just happened. It’s just a really difficult and very, very sad situation for everybody.”