Belfast Telegraph

Tributes paid to 'caring and witty' young west Belfast teenager after sudden death

Dennis Weldon from Lenadoon was buried at Milltown Cemetery yesterday
Dennis Weldon from Lenadoon was buried at Milltown Cemetery yesterday
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The funeral has taken place of a young west Belfast footballer who died suddenly.

A Requiem Mass was held yesterday for 16-year-old Dennis Weldon at St Oliver Plunkett Church with the burial held afterwards in Milltown Cemetery.

Mourners were encouraged by the family to wear football tops and bright colours to the service in tribute.

According to the Andersonstown News, the Lenadoon teenager had worked for them as a paper seller. A death notice said he died suddenly on Saturday.

As a popular member of the St James' Swifts under-18s side, he had been due to play in the South Belfast Supplementary Cup final.

A family notice described him as the dearly beloved son of Stephen, Fiona, Mary, Hugh and Gareth and the much loved brother of Natasha, Joelyn, Dionne, Patrick, Andrew, Michaela and Corey.

His sister Joelyn Doherty told the Andersonstown News he was "an outgoing person" who "loved to help everyone".

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"He was caring and he tried his best to make everyone feel okay," she said.

"He was always worrying about everyone else's feelings and seeing if they were all right.

"He was always the one to talk to and would always say 'if you ever need me I'm here', yet he was the one feeling like he had no one."

Ms Doherty said her family were heartbroken when they received a devastating call from the PSNI on Saturday to break the news.

"They wanted to know if it was his phone and what he was wearing," she said.

"He had texted into the group chat saying that he would see his friends on the other side.

"We just couldn't believe it. We didn't want to believe it - we didn't think it was real.

"We were hoping someone else had his ID. Me and my daddy went to the scene to see if it was him and it really was him."

Ms Doherty called for better youth provision in the community to provide better services for young people, especially those who may be struggling.

"There needs to be more youth clubs and places for them to go," she added.

"They're out there on the streets and then they're getting into trouble and getting worried about things. There's no one to help."

In a touching show of support, Dennis' team named him as player of the week, posting a picture of him in every position.

A vigil outside his home on Derryveagh Drive was also organised on Wednesday night.

Ms Doherty had posted online to encourage those attending to write a message on a balloon for her brother, adding: "Hopefully DJ will give us all the strength as we say our last goodbyes, you were loved by everyone. If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever!"

Speaking to the Andersonstown News before Wednesday night's vigil, St James' under-18s manager Joseph McCall said he felt "broken" by the loss.

"He didn't deserve a send-off, he deserved his family and a life," he said.

"He was full of energy, he was funny, witty and he would have done anything for you. I'm gutted."

Mr McCall continued: "It's the same with the kids. It has brought them together a bit, but you can tell that they are so upset.

"They were with each other three nights a week and every match day, so they were with each other more than anyone."

He urged any young people who were struggling to ask for help.

"The club is always here. Go and take up football, go and take up boxing, go and take up GAA, go and take up dancing - anything you like, go and take it up and get off the streets.

"I'm always here to talk to, but there are better people than me to talk to. Someone is always there to listen."

A message on the St James' Swifts FC Facebook page read: "RIP wee man, we watched you grow each year you were always loved and adored by the Swifts from kids to senior you will be sadly missed."

Tributes from many other football clubs soon added to the outpouring of support for Dennis' family. A message from St Mary's FC in Glengormley said: "Our thoughts and prayers at this sad time are with the St James community and his family & friends. RIP."

Others sharing their condolences included Ballysillan Swifts FC, Carrick Rangers FC Academy, Belfast Celtic Supporters and Ballymoney United Under 18s.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, the Samaritans can be contacted free by calling 116123 and Lifeline is on 0808 808 8000

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