Funeral tributes to young hurler Pearce Branagan who ‘embraced so much of life’
Mourners at the funeral of a young hurler who died suddenly heard yesterday how his inspirational motto was "live as if you will die today; dream as if you will live for ever".
Pearce Branagan, who played for Clonduff GAC in Hilltown, Co Down, passed away after suffering a cardiac seizure last Saturday.
The 23-year-old, who suffered from a long-term heart condition, had recently embarked on his teaching career at St Malachy's Primary School in Kilcoo.
Yesterday, hundreds of relatives and friends attended his Requiem Mass at St John's Church in Ballymaghery, near Hilltown.
Amid the mourners there was a sea of green and yellow, the colours of Clonduff GAC.
Fr Feidhlimidh Magennis, who taught Mr Branagan at St Mary's teaching college, spoke of the fond memories of the young man. He said: "He was the kind of person who found time for all sorts of activities and friends, both in college and here at home.
"He brightened the place with a warm smile and showed generosity of spirit."
Fr Magennis shared two memories which he said illustrated Mr Branagan's character.
He recalled: "Towards the end of his years at school, Pearce brought in a cake to say thanks to a teacher for her help. It was a big cake so the other pupils wanted the teacher to share it around the room. No, said Pearce, you are to take it home as it's all for you.
"Yet there is another side to his generosity. Approaching the end of this first year as a teacher, Pearce was concerned when he got a whiff of news that his P5 class may try to outdo each other in choosing presents for their teacher. No, said Pearce, all I want is one green apple, one red apple, and one pear - and perhaps also an orange.
"He had learned the true meaning of generosity is in giving and not receiving."
Mr Branagan's team-mates from Clonduff GAC presented his coffin with a hurling stick, jersey and a trophy.
Reflecting on Mr Branagan's life, Fr Magennis described it as one of "fullness".
He added: "In his short life he lived each day to the full.
"And he dreamed of living the fullness of life also - of becoming a teacher, of finding a soulmate, of winning something in hurling."
The priest also spoke of Mr Branagan's selfless nature. He added: "Pearce had a big smile to light up a room, and behind that smile was a big heart. A big heart takes the burden off others and puts them at ease.
"A big heart has space for so many people - family, team-mates, classmates, soulmate.
"This physical heart of ours has its limits as Pearce knew only so well. But that did not define him. His heart grew big enough to embrace so much of life."
Mr Branagan is survived by his father and mother, Tony and Terri Branagan, and siblings Padraig, Lorcan and Caithlin.
He is also mourned by his long-term girlfriend Ellen McCrilly. A book of condolence has been opened at Clonduff GAC.