HARROWING SCENES took place in Marshalstown last Friday, as the community came to a standstill to bid a sad farewell to one of its talented teenagers, Michael Byrne (17).
Heartbroken parents and siblings were shocked to learn of Michael’s sudden death last Tuesday morning, particularly as it was the second time they have lost a family member in tragic circumstances in recent years, with his sister Catriona passing away in 2009.
Hundreds of mourners, many of them clad in Enniscorthy Vocational College (E.V.C) uniforms, the school where Michael was a sixth year student, gathered at St. Joseph’s Church to pay their respects.
A guard of honour, performed by the Marshalstown/Castledockrell GAA club and Castledockrell United, as well as the Castledockrell camogie team and his school, showed how respected Michael was in sport, one of his passions in life.
Michael was well-known in the community for his love of hurling, and he was never seen without his trusty hurl and sliotar. An outstanding player, due to his height, strength, ability and ambition, he was looked up to on the field.
Also talented at football, he had only recently been asked to play for the CountyMinor team, but he declined, as his first love was hurling.
He was also an excellent soccer player, known for being a prominent figure in every match, and his Number 7 jersey was presented to his grief-stricken family by his Castledockrell United team at his funeral mass.
Michael was described as a quiet young man, who would never say a bad word about anyone. If he didn’t have something good to say, he wouldn’t say it at all.
He played a full part in his family life, and would never say no to anything his parents asked him to do.
Tributes from the community were led by the parish priest of Marshalstown, Father Danny Mc Donald, who said Michael, in his short years, had achieved so much.
Fr. Mc Donald joked that he was known as ‘the Usain Bolt of Marshalstown’ when running around the sports field, and that there were often times you didn’t know what position Michael was playing as he would feature so heavily in the game.
He also fondly remembered how the teenager would come home from school and “no sooner would he be up the footpath then you’d see him come up again, changed out of his uniform, going to the shop for sweets.”
He added he would always tap around with his hurl and sliotar while he made these journeys.
“There was another side to Michael that others may not have seen, but that I saw every Saturday evening,” Fr. McDonald commented.
“He would come here to this church with his parents to say his prayers. His religion was important to him. He was here just last Saturday.”
Fr. McDonald commended Michael’s fellow students in E.V.C, as well as the staff, saying that since the tragic news broke, they have been dignified in their grief. He applauded them on their kindness and care towards one another.
He also implored the youth who attended the mass to speak out if they have a problem: “There are many, many young people here today and many of them will have fears and worries as they go through life, as we all do.
“I would plead with them today that if they do have a worry or trouble, to share it with someone else – at home, with a neighbour, with a friend, with someone you can trust in life – but if you ever feel alone, know that you are not.”
Fr. McDonald became emotional and broke down in tears as he told the packed congregation Michael was “now in the hands of God, the God he trusted, the God he loved, the God he prayed to here every Saturday evening.”
[For the full story, see this week's Echo.]