The north Antrim community has been saddened by the news of the death of a young Ballymena man following a brave battle with cancer.
The esteem in which Kieran Bowes, who passed away at the weekend, was held was evident in the number of heartfelt messages of sympathy on social media.
Kieran was aged 21 and had been studying Sports Science at the University of Lancashire.
Among the many tributes paid was one which described Kieran as “one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known in my life, always there for u when u needed cheering up, such a beautiful soul”.
Kieran was a rugby fanatic who, along with twin brother Curtis, came through Ballymena Rugby Club’s youth section, where he was a hugely popular member and team-mate.
Last year, a charity rugby match between Cambridge House Grammar School’s 2010 Medallion XV - of which Kieran had been a member - and a Ballymena Fourth XV ‘Select’ side was played at Eaton Park, in order to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Just before Christmas, Kieran was delighted to receive a surprise visit to his hospital ward from two of his Ulster rugby heroes, Andrew Trimble and Darren Cave.
Former Ballymena Rugby Club chairman Tom Wiggins, the club’s youth convenor, described Kieran’s passing as “desperately sad”.
“Off the pitch he was fairly unassuming but on it, he was a really tenacious, competitive open side flanker.
“I coached him and Curtis on and off from the age of 10, firstly in mini rugby and then youth rugby after they came back to the club when they had finished school.
“Like Curtis, Kieran was a very gregarious person and always liked a bit of banter which made him very popular.
“His father Shaun was the person who introduced me to the club when he was a mini rugby coach himself and Kieran’s older brother Jarrad also plays so the club is a place that meant so much to Kieran and his family.
“Even in the latter stages of his life, Kieran showed so much dignity and it was he who made the arrangements for his funeral,” added Tom.
Kieran’s funeral service will take place at Stevenson’s Funeral home this Thursday, February 18, at 2pm.
From there, the cortege will travel to Ballymena Rugby Club before his burial will take place at Ballee cemetery.
Following the service, everyone is welcome back to the rugby club to celebrate Kieran’s life.