Family's tearful farewell to tragic hurler James (13)
TRIBUTE: Team-mates form guard of honour
YOUNG hurler James Long went to sleep "with dreams of glory and the ring of applause in his ears" on the night before he died.
A heartfelt tribute to the 13-year-old boy who died from an asthma attack earned complete silence at yesterday's Funeral Mass.
James, from Kilmallock, Co Limerick, died last Thursday -- just hours after he scored the winning goal for his club in a crucial U14 hurling championship match.
Sts Peter and Paul's Church in Kilmallock was packed beyond capacity as his friends, classmates and the entire community consoled his family and remembered the aspiring sports star.
Sean Twomey -- principal of Colaiste Iosaef secondary school where James had completed first year -- told the congregation that his grieving family was moved by the response and support of all since his death.
The number 18 jersey James wore when introduced as a substitute in his final hurling game was placed alongside his coffin. James was laid out in a Limerick GAA jersey and his mother Barbara and family sat nearby.
Mr Twomey said James was affectionate enough to appreciate a cuddle from his mother and still tried to be protective of his older sisters, Kate (18) and Sarah (16).
"When we think of death, it is usually with the thoughts of the approaching winter of life and not with the summer of youth. It never feels right when someone so young is taken from us," Mr Twomey said.
Over 1,000 people fell silent as the principal recalled James's final moments on a hurling field.
"I think all of us will prefer to remember James not as he is today but as he was Wednesday evening," he said.
"The joy he felt scoring that goal to win the match against Patrickswell was probably huge. The promise to tell his mum about the 'rasper' he scored would be sheer bliss.
"The joy, probably as much for the goal, as for the opportunity to talk about it for the rest of the year.
"I hope you can imagine the happiness he felt going to sleep that night with dreams of glory and the ring of applause in his ears.
"The poet William Blake said 'Mourn not my passing, but celebrate my life'. Remember him as the 13-year-old boy with a twinkle in his eye smiling with delight and with his hands in the air," Mr Twomey said to resounding applause.
Friends, team-mates and James's classmates cried openly throughout.
Former Limerick hurler and Kilmallock parish priest, Canon Willie Fitzmaurice addressed the teenagers.
"It is not easy to come to terms with the death of a friend. All life is precious, but fragile. Joys and sorrows live next door to one another," he said. "No life can ever be a complete fairy tale -- even for the young."
The same friends formed a guard of honour after the funeral and brought James to his final resting place at Bulgaden cemetery.