Mourners at the funeral of Tyrone hurling star Damian Casey heard tributes to “a leader, an ambassador and an absolute gentleman.”
Family and friends filled St Patrick’s Church in Dungannon to pay their final respects to the 28-year-old, who died suddenly at a hotel in Spain on June 17.
The coffin carrying Mr Casey was carried into the church to the song You Raise Me Up, as parish priest Kevin Donaghy explained the athlete was gifted both in sport and his academic and professional life.
His teammates, wearing club and county jerseys, formed a guard of honour outside St Patrick’s Church as mourners arrived for the service on Sunday.
Fr Donaghy called his life one “well packed with goodness and decency” and said parents Sean and Susan and siblings Louise and Catherine will “cherish precious memories”.
“Damian gave of his best in everything he did, family life, school life, university and sport,” the priest explained.
“He was an accomplished pupil and student at all stages and a successful work colleague who was highly regarded by everyone he encountered.
“Damian had a love and interest for all sports but latched on in his early years to his mother's attachment to Manchester United.
“In his teenage years it was clear Damian could have been every bit as good a footballer as a hurler, but you couldn’t do both.
“An inspirational leader... a man of integrity and honour. In all his games as a hurler he was never once sent off the field of play. He never played a game in which he didn’t contribute to the score.”
“He had indeed come to perfection in so short a while,” he said.
Damian was described as a “dynamic” sportsman, “an inspirational leader” and “a man of integrity and honour”.
Mourners heard of how in his last appearance for his county team in the Nicky Rackard Cup final held in Croke Park last month, he scored 14 points to lead Tyrone to victory, in a “classic example of his outstanding performance on the field”.
“Every death of a young person in the prime of life confronts us with surprise and draws us into shock and disbelief. And yet we’re called also today to celebrate the life of Damian as a person, as a family member, as a sportsman, as a businessman, as a good friend and as a good example to so many in his community and far beyond.”
Tributes to the man described as Tyrone’s 'greatest ever hurler’ after his death followed right across Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill called him a “fantastic hurler” and said Dungannon is “heartbroken”.
Tributes were also issued by countless GAA clubs, with Tyrone GAA previously confirming all fixtures this weekend were to be postponed as a mark of respect.
His own club Eoghan Ruadh said words “cannot express” how devastating the news of his death was, with hundreds lining the streets in the town on Thursday evening as his body was repatriated to the family home.
Fr Donaghy told those gathered the hurling star sought out people who would be “powerful positive role models” and in turn was “a great son and brother” to his family.
“So much has been spoken and written about Damian these past days,” the priest added.
“As several people said, you could be hours at it and you couldn’t cover all that could be said about Damian Casey.
“The perfect gentleman who could relate so well to everyone, from the young and elderly and everything in between.
“Today we give thanks for his life, and the memories he leaves.”
Following the mass, Mr Casey’s body was buried at Carland Road Cemetery.
Mr Casey is survived by parents Sean and Susan and siblings Louise and Catherine.