The heartbroken father of a 14-year-old Liverpool fan who died suddenly while playing football told his requiem Mass that he will “never walk alone”.
There were emotional scenes at the Church of Our Lady Crowned in Mayfield in Cork City yesterday at the Mass for Graham O’Connell from The Steeples in Mayfield.
The teenager, who died suddenly on Monday, had been due to return to school yesterday at St Aidan’s Community College, Dublin Hill, in Cork.
Hundreds of people filled the church to pay their respects to his parents, David and Jackie, and his sisters, Karen and Edel, and to celebrate his life.
His father paid tribute to his “wonderful and loving son, brother and grandson” who told him that he wanted to be a sports commentator on the day he died.
“Graham was born with a complex heart condition, but he never let it get in his way. He had a hurley in his hand since he was able to walk. He loved his soccer. His first port of call every morning was Sky Sports News. He told me on Monday that he wanted to be a sports commentator and he was already on his way. He loved Liverpool FC. We know that he’ll never walk alone.
“Graham, we love you now and we always will.”
A Liverpool scarf and a football were among the gifts carried to the altar at the beginning of the service.
An iPod and a photo of his sisters, who were his best friends, were also carried to the altar.
It also emerged yesterday that management at Liverpool FC sent a letter of condolence to the family.
Glen Rovers Camogie Club’s PRO Beth Hackett told how Graham, who was the club’s mascot, attended every one of his sisters’ camogie matches and many of their training sessions accompanied by his dad Dave and became “part of the team”.
She said Graham would be singing the Liverpool anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone to his family to get them through these very difficult times.
Referring to a campaign launched by his friends to have his name placed on the scoreboard at Anfield during Liverpool’s next game, Ms Hacket said the posts on Facebook showed how Graham had “touched so many lives”.
Students from St Aidan’s formed a guard of honour as the coffin was taken from the church and a choir from Scoil Oilibhéir, where Graham went to primary school, sung at the Mass.
Liverpool FC tweeted a message of condolence to Graham’s family and friends.
“We were saddened to learn of the passing of young Red Graham O’Connell. The thoughts of everyone at LFC are with his friends and family,” the tweet read.
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