Belfast Telegraph

Gifted teenage rugby player from Ballyclare to be laid to rest on Saturday

Jim McKernon, a talented rugby player, died suddenly on Wednesday
Jim McKernon, a talented rugby player, died suddenly on Wednesday
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

The funeral will take place on Saturday of a Ballyclare teenager who died suddenly.

Jim McKernon, who was a talented rugby player with his hometown club, passed away on Wednesday.

The 17-year-old was the son of Brian and Andrea and brother of Natasha and Rebecca.

Ballyclare RFC was among those expressing sympathy to the McKernon family circle.

Alan Hamilton, under-18 head coach, said Jim was "a key part of the rugby youth set-up" and had represented the club at under-14 and under-18 level.

Mr Hamilton said: "Jim was proud to wear the Ballyclare Rugby Club shirt and we remember his talent, courage and love for the game.

"He never stood back or gave ground.

"The youth team players and coaches are devastated by his passing.

"His team-mates have many memories to look back on with Jim and they will be cherished forever.

"He will be sadly missed on and off the pitch but never forgotten.

"On behalf of all the youth players and coaching staff we send our deepest sympathy and love to his family."

Dozens of tributes have been paid to the young man on social media including one from his heartbroken father Brian.

He wrote: "Best mate any dad could ask for. Going to miss him. My big son, sleep well kid."

Another relative added: "Heart's broken! You'll be sorely missed kiddo."

"A talented player gone so soon," a friend added.

There were condolences too from rugby clubs across Northern Ireland including Donaghadee RFC.

It said: "Shocked to learn of the sudden passing of Ballyclare RFC youth player Jim McKernon, son of Belfast High School Former Pupils RFC legend Brian.

"Knew him in his mini days when he followed his dad everywhere. A great kid. Condolences to the family and both clubs."

A message of sympathy was also offered on behalf of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

A spokesperson for Ballyclare Fire Station said: "The members tender their deepest sympathy to their friend and colleague, Brian, his wife Andrea and family circle."

Police confirmed that the teenager's death is not being treated as suspicious.

A PSNI spokesperson said: "Police received a report of the sudden death of a 17-year-old male in the Grange Drive area of Ballyclare on Wednesday morning.

"A post-mortem examination has been carried out.

"The death is not being treated as suspicious."

His funeral service will take place at his Greenvale Terrace home this morning at 9.30am with burial afterwards at Ballyclare Cemetery.

A funeral notice said: "Will be sadly missed by the family circle.

"If love could have saved you, you never would have died."

The family have requested that donations in lieu of flowers be made to The Children's Hospice, c/o S & J Irvine, 48 Rashee Road, Ballyclare.

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