A guard of honour lined out at Ballymena Rugby Club on Thursday in honour of Kieran Bowes who lost his battle with cancer earlier this week.
In a moving tribute, players and officials lined the avenue into the Co Antrim club’s ground as the 21-year-old paid a last visit to his home from home.
There was warm applause for Kieran as the cortege left Eaton Park – a gesture described by club chairman Derek Montgomery as “particularly poignant” for the young player’s family and teammates.
“It was an extremely sad situation and was very emotional indeed,” Mr Montgomery said.
“Kieran’s family had expressed a wish that he would be taken away from the rugby club for one last time, so after the service the cortege went to the rugby club.
“When it did, the avenue into the rugby club was lined by players, officials and family. Kieran’s father had asked for the cortege to be given a standing ovation as it was coming out of the club and that was a particularly poignant moment to be honest.”
The young rugby enthusiast was a student of sports science at the University of Lancashire,
Mr Montgomery added: “Kieran was an integral part of the club. He came up through the mini section, and the youth section, and played at a senior level at the club, so he will be sadly missed.”
Mr Montgomery said the Ballymena club is proud of its reputation of being family-orientated.
“It’s a family club and we look after our people very well. We took a stance a couple of years ago that rather than bring people in from far and wide, we would concentrate on recruiting people from the local area and the local schools, and Kieran, Curtis and Jarrad (Kieran’s brothers) all came to us from Cambridge House Grammar School in Ballymena.”
The club has organised a charity quiz night at the club tomorrow night in memory of Kieran with all proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer Support and Ward C7 at Antrim Area Hospital that treated Kieran.
The club chairman added: “Our first team is away this Saturday in Dublin playing Blackrock and I know we are going to be rushing up the road as all of the senior boys are very keen to be involved so that we can raise some money for the charity. That indicates where we are as a club – we support our own.”
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 described Kieran’s passing as “desperately sad”.
He said: “Off the pitch he was fairly unassuming but on it he was a really tenacious, competitive open side flanker. Even in the latter stages of his life, Kieran showed so much dignity and it was he who made the arrangements for his funeral.”
Kieran is survived by his mother Janet, father Sean, older brother Jarrad and twin brother Curtis.