Belfast Telegraph

A ripe talent taken too soon: Tributes for motorbike racer Darren Keys at funeral

Hundreds say a final farewell to Darren Keys

Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

Co Antrim road racer and father of three young children, Darren Keys (34), died doing what he loved, hundreds of mourners have been told.

Former British Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams was among those who gathered at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church to say their final farewell to the "epitome of a gentleman" who died following a horror crash last Sunday.

Rev Emerson McDowell said Darren loved racing, but he lived for his wife Justine, his children and his parents who have all been left devastated by their loss.

"One rider told me the highs are so high and the lows are so low," he said.

"Darren and his family enjoyed many highs, but they have all been outweighed by this low and the devastating sense of loss they have experienced."

The clergyman said Darren - who was airlifted to the Mater Hospital in Dublin following the crash during the Senior Support race at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath - never left home on race day without smothering loved ones with hugs and kisses.

"Family meant the world to him," he added.

The Suzuki rider, who won at Skerries last weekend, had been in contention for the 2019 Irish Senior Support championship, of which Walderstown was a counting round.

"He was a gentleman on and off the bike which made him very popular - he was loved by everyone in the paddock," Rev McDowell said.

"He was ripe talent taken far too soon.

Wife Justine at the funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare
Wife Justine at the funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare
Darren Keys
Superbike rider Glenn Irwin
Jeremy McWilliams
The funeral of Darren Keys
The funeral of Darren Keys
The funeral of Darren Keys. Credit: Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
The funeral of Darren Keys. Credit: Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 Wife Justine at The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 Wife Justine at The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
The funeral of Darren Keys. Credit: Pacemaker
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 18/07/2019 The Funeral of Darren Keys at Ballylinney Presbyterian Church near Ballyclare on Friday. Darren Keys (34), from Ballyclare, died following a crash at the Walderstown Road Races in Co Westmeath on Sunday. He leaves behind his devastated wife Justine and their three young children Charlie (13), Molly (8) and five-year-old Harry. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
The funeral of Darren Keys

"But Darren passed away doing what he loved, which was racing; he had this bold determination to win and that adrenaline kept him going."

The clergyman said Justine remained Darren's "number one fan" despite not always agreeing with his choice of races to compete in.

In an emotional address directly to Charlie (13), Molly (8), and Harry (5), Rev McDowell assured each of them that their father loved them deeply.

"Charlie, he loved spending time with you on the farm and watching you play football which is your passion," Rev McDowell said.

Championship Irish dancer Mollie (8) was told that she possesses her father's drive and ambition as evidenced by her many trophies. "You have his heart and sheer determination to succeed at whatever you strive to be," the cleric said.

"Harry, you idolised your daddy and loved playing on the motorbikes together and watching him race; you have been described as his mini-me.

"You are all going to miss your dad terribly, but you all have lovely memories and you will all be loved by the family around you."

Then, turning to the NIE employee's "soul mate", the clergyman told Justine that her husband's legacy will live on. "It was love at first sight," Rev McDowell said.

"They shared many happy memories and were just content in each other's company - deep down Darren was just a big softie."

"His legacy will live on your heart and the hearts of your children."

Bikers from across the UK and race officials formed a guard of honour as Darren's coffin was carried from the church to Ballyclare Cemetery.

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