Flame-haired James Long — a talented GAA player who scored a winning goal for his local hurling club only hours before his death — was buried with his jersey draped over his coffin.
James, originally from Limerick City, had moved with his family to rural Kilmallock six years ago but had managed to capture the hearts of those in the small community.
Hundreds packed into St Peter and Paul’s Church in the town as parish priest, Canon Willie Fitzmaurice, spoke of the boy “whose promises and hopes for the future on earth were left shattered”. He told mourners of James’s joy on the pitch only hours before his sudden passing.
“Last Wednesday evening he was scoring a goal for Kilmallock, in winning an Under-14 hurling game.
“He was naturally elated and thrilled. But triumph quickly turned to tragedy in the very early hours of the following morning, when his life was snuffed out due to a severe asthma attack.”
He said James’s “tragic death has struck a chord with the feelings of so many, and has evoked an overwhelming wave of sympathy far and wide”.
He extended sympathy to James’s parents Terrence and Barbara, his sisters Kate and Sarah and his extended family.
He advised James’s team mates and school friends — who performed a guard of honour at the service — that life and death were intertwined together.
He said many knew James, “with his distinctive red hair”, describing him as “a live wire with bundles of energy”.
“Today is James’ spiritual birthday because, on this day 13 years ago, he was baptised in the Dominican Church in Limerick.” Canon Fitzmaurice said.
Séan Twomey, principal of Coláiste Iosaef in Kilmallock where James had just completed his first year of secondary school, said James always had “a twinkle in his eye”.
“James was with us for all too brief a time, and his family have been left with an emptiness and a space in their hearts that James had once filled — and that’s a large space. For he may have been small in stature, but he was big in personality.
He told those who had gathered to say goodbye to James to remember him as “the 13-year-old boy, hair ablaze, a twinkle in his eye, smiling with delight and, with his hands in the air”.
James’s remains were taken to nearby Bulgaden for burial.