Mourners at the funeral of Niall O’Hanlon were told the young footballer was the life and soul of his team.
The 25-year-old from Magheralin died when he was struck by a car in the village on Friday night. He had been due to travel to Liverpool on Sunday to see his favourite team play their final league game of the season at Anfield.
Niall was the eldest child of Stephanie and Phelim O’Hanlon, and brother to Shauneen.
At his funeral in the Church of St Patrick and St Ronan in Magheralin, Billy Fyffe, secretary of the club for whom Niall played, paid tribute to the “wing wizard”.
Mr Fyffe said: “He always ready to crack a joke, laugh out loud and give everyone a massive smile. If you weren’t watching, he was always ready to pull a prank on you. You’d never forget that big grin.
“His infectious bubbly personality was the reason that so many people who knew him considered him a friend.”
His club mate at Magheralin Village FC told mourners of Niall’s passion for Liverpool FC. On a recent trip to see Liverpool play in Rome in a Champions League semi-final, the 25-year-old ended up in the Roma end of the ground and made friends instantly.
“With tension in the air between the Liverpool and Roma fans, it says a lot about Niall’s personality, that even the Roma fans loved him and took him under their wing and made him one of their own,” said Mr Fyffe.
Of the local team, he said: “Niall loved his football so much that when he heard of the opportunity to get involved in the newly formed Magheralin Village team he was one of the first at the meeting.
“After signing as a player and joining the club committee, Niall quickly became the heartbeat of the team.
“If it wasn’t for Niall, we wouldn’t have such a close-knit team. Niall was the glue to our friendships and always brought us together especially if the boys were arguing.”
He told of an occasion when Niall took off his shirt to celebrate scoring what he thought was an equalising goal only to be brought back down to earth when the final whistle blew and the match finished in a 4-3 defeat.
“That was our Niall, the heartbeat, the life and soul of our team. He was our wing wizard and is the ultimate club man for Magheralin Village,” said Mr Fyffe.
“We will miss the wee man sorely. It breaks my heart to know that I’ll not see him run down the wing anymore.
“Niall will always be forever in our hearts and will always be the pride of our club.”