Hundreds of mourners flooded the streets of Blessington, County Wicklow, to play tribute to the 21-year-old student, James “Jam” Nolan, who tragically drowned a week ago in Poland.
Among the mourners was the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, Football Association of Ireland (FAI) chief executive John Delaney and the team captain Robbie Keane’s wife, Claudine.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and President Michael D Higgins were represented by their aides Commandant Michael Treacy and Captain Louise Conlon.
A wreath from Ireland footballer Keith Andrews was placed on the hearse. His message read “RIP James, you will always be in our hearts every time we play for Ireland.”
Nolan, known to his friends as “Jam”, tragically drowned just over a week ago. The student, having separated from his friends, drowned in the river of Brda, in the city of Bydgoszcz. Nolan and his friends were visiting Poland to support the Republic of Ireland soccer team in the UEFA Euro 2012 competition.
His sister Susie said her younger brother was “one in a million”.
Speaking at the ceremony she said “Everybody is asking why out of millions of fans did this happen to James. But he was always one in a million and he always will be”, reports the Irish Independent.
“There is a lot of depression and darkness in everyday life but I think we can reflect and just learn from how James lived his life.
“He simply just lived and loved and that made him so happy. If everybody leaves here and makes that their train of thought - just live and love.”
His uncle Noel also said the international reaction, of care and compassion, the family had received over the last week was unbelievable.
He said “This gave me a sense of pride to think the world thought James was so special.
“I never realized until a few days ago what it was about that smile, but now when I look at every photo he was in I see that smile of his.”
During the funeral Nolan was described as a quiet man, with a large group of friends, who had a passion for football. Soccer trophies, a set of darts, playing card, and PlayStation controls were among the gifts brought to the altar.
Nolan’s father, Jimmy, and brother Andrew, were among the pallbearers.
Speaking at the removal on Sunday night Nolan’s father struggled with his grief, the Herald reported. Clutching the altar he said “I've never met such sadness in my life. I never want be to be associated with this sadness again.
"What I'm asking everyone to do next week is to have a bit of slagging. A bit of joking. He [James] would love us to have a bit of banter."
Inside the church a photograph of the smiling student was placed on his coffin along with a wreath reading “Jam”. An Irish soccer jersey, signed by the Republic of Ireland team, was presented to his family.
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