Friends wear club’s shirts at funeral of teenage footballer Max Wilson
Team-mates of a teenage footballer from Co Down wore their club shirts in tribute at his funeral yesterday.
Max Wilson (17) died suddenly at his home in Rathfriland on Sunday night, a day after his last game for Rathfriland Rangers FC Reserves against Cleary Celtics at Iveagh Park.
The club described him as one of its "promising young stars" ahead of the funeral in Third Rathfriland Presbyterian Church.
His family had requested that friends and club members wore his team colours, as their son had never liked wearing a suit.
Rev Seamus Burke told mourners that the teenager was a "cup-half-full sort of guy, loveable and a big softie".
As the only son of Alan and Kathy Wilson, the young footballer was the middle child between his older sister Tia and younger sister Molly.
"That's why, as everyone here understands, this wee family's heart is just broken," he said.
He added that September 27 would have marked Max's 18th birthday. "He had a short life, but there is so much to say about that short life," he told mourners.
Attending Iveagh Primary School and Rathfriland High School, Max excelled at sport from the very beginning and was playing for Glenavon by the age of 11.
"He even made the Foyle Cup team with them. He debuted with Rathfriland Firsts at just 15, scoring on his debut with them, a very proud moment for his father," Rev Burke said.
"Max had a nice way with people. He was polite, well-spoken, respectful and he could be very witty, too, a side his family saw often.
"He was always winding up those at home. He tortured his two grannies when they came around, played tricks on his sisters, teasing his dad. He was always joking, loved the craic.
"Max was a cup-half-full sort of guy, loveable and a big softie at the same time. He and his mum were especially close; a nightly feature between the two was to send each other a goodnight text."
After leaving school he studied electrical engineering at Southern Regional College, staying in the top three of his class and winning a work placement with Norlect.
Rev Burke told of how Max had dearly missed his grandfather Rodney: "He very often took the opportunity to visit his grave, and just talk to him, tell him what was going on in his life - about his work, about his football, his family, all the stuff that happens in everyday life.
"And I guess there it is right there - in that scene, a young man sitting at a grave, engaged in a one-way conversation. This world here, trying to reach across this impassable gulf to the other world.
"But we can't, and that's what makes this so impossibly hard. That's why a family like this is thrown into such grief, because Max is not here, and his family can't communicate with him.
"All they know is that when death comes, life changes."
Rathfriland Rangers posted an emotional tribute on Facebook, saying that a dark cloud now hangs above Iveagh Park.
"With a passion for football in rain, hail or shine, the talented player was always one of the first names to make the weekly team sheet. Max was a likeable and lively character, winning many end-of-season awards throughout his youth career."
Recalling his memorable senior debut at 15 against Downpatrick, they said: "What an impact he made when he came off the bench with 30 minutes to go, scoring a vital goal in front of the travelling Whites fans, including both his proud dad and grandfather. It was a day never to be forgotten."
Recalling his last game on Saturday against Cleary Celtic, the club said "as usual he didn't pull out of any tackles, he hit his opposition hard and he came away with his trademark yellow card!"
It added: "Max will be sorely missed and we ask everyone to look after and support each other, particularly his family, friends and young teammates who are struggling to come to terms with this terrible tragedy."