'Our warrior, our hero - Shay is forever young', mourners told
The 15-year-old Junior Cert student who died trying to save his best friend in a double drowning tragedy has been described as his family's hero.
Addressing mourners yesterday at the packed St Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ennis, Co Clare, Fr Ger Fitzgerald also said that Shay Moloney "had the heart of a warrior".
Shay, a third-year student at St Flannan's College, drowned last Thursday while trying to save the life of Jack Kenneally (15) in a water-filled disused quarry at Knockanean, outside Ennis.
Yesterday, scores of Junior Cert students who are due to begin their exams tomorrow returned to the church for the second funeral in as many days after attending Jack's on Sunday.
Shay's friends wept and comforted each other while students from St Flannan's College and players from Ennis RFC and Shay and Jack's Under-15 Young Munster rivals formed a guard of honour as the remains passed in a white coffin draped with a purple ribbon.
Both boys were born in January 2003 and became friends after attending the Holy Family School in Ennis together.
This year the two "brothers in arms" played starring roles in the Ennis Under-15 rugby team.
In a tribute to Shay, his uncle Louie told mourners that the family "is completely heart- broken" that he is not around to enjoy the warm tributes from the rugby world.
"There have been touching tributes in recent days from the IRFU and Irish rugby teams wearing black armbands while playing, and messages of support from professional rugby players that would simply have lit up Shay's world," said Mr Moloney.
"Shay would have been in his element, the centre of attention.
"Shay, sleep the long sleep. Always remember that your mammy loves you more than life and your family loves you more than life.
"Sleep peaceful now, Shay. Forever young, forever our little warrior, forever our hero."
Fr Fitzgerald recalled meeting Shay during his Confirmation year in a classroom at the Holy Family School, across the road from the cathedral.
"Shay had not the slightest bit of interest in what I was saying and instead was ripping up a piece of paper to put on a ruler," the priest said.
Fr Fitzgerald said Shay fired the piece of paper with the ruler but did not hit the intended target of a classmate.
"He hit me on the head instead," he said. "He looked at me with his extraordinary smile, almost laughing at me, and said, 'Sorry about that, Father'."
Later that year, when he was about to be anointed with confirmation oil, Shay asked Fr Fitzgerald: "Will this mess up my hair?"
The priest said that what has happened "has no words - it is horrible and awful and our hearts are ripped apart".
He added that Shay's friends were his whole life and everything to him.
Addressing the hundreds of teenagers in the St Flannan's College uniform and Ennis RFC colours, Fr Fitzgerald said: "It is OK not to be OK and I would encourage you to hold your head high like Shay would.
"Look after one another like Shay would and mind one another like Shay would and help one another like Shay would. Feel courageous like Shay was and love life like Shay did.
"Always remember to respect everyone like Shay did and be proud of who you are like Shay was."
Fr Fitzgerald said Shay "was a level-headed young man, an example of how to live your life, and when anyone had a worry or a problem he would always want to remedy it".
Some of the symbols of Shay's life taken to the altar included a family photo, rugby kit and concert tickets.
Shay was later laid to rest at Drumcliff Cemetery outside Ennis where the remains of Jack Kenneally were buried only 24 hours earlier.