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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 April, 2004, 14:19 GMT 15:19 UK
Thousands attend player's funeral
Reverend Colin Harris conducted the service
Thousands of people have attended the funeral of teenage rugby player John McCall in Armagh.

He died while playing rugby for Ireland's under-19 team in South Africa just over a week ago.

A pathologist confirmed that the 18-year-old flanker suffered heart failure.

Less than three weeks ago, he captained the Royal School Armagh rugby team to victory in the St Patrick's Day Schools' Cup.

Last week, the post mortem was brought forward from Tuesday to Monday and a pathologist confirmed that the teenager died from cardiac failure.

The player's death was remembered by teams at the under-19 World Cup tournament in Durban.

The Reverend Colin Harris conducted the service at the Mall Presbyterian Church on Sunday afternoon.

During the service, John's father Ian spoke movingly about his son for more than 15 minutes.

He said "rugby makes the man and it made John McCall".

As part of the service, the Royal School Armagh Choir sung and the Scripture verses were read by head boy, Eddie Orr.

Meanwhile, the Ireland squad returned home from South Africa following the death of the Royal Armagh School pupil.

The decision was reached between the players and management in Durban.

John collapsed during Ireland's opening game against New Zealand.

The International Rugby Board and the South African Rugby Football Union fully support the decision and will be assisting the Irish management and team in any way during the coming days.

Ireland were due to face Japan in the second phase of games on Wednesday.

John was understood to have taken the ball at the tail of a line-out. He drove forward before being tackled around the ankles before laying the ball back to his team-mates.

When play moved on he failed to move, and despite treatment was pronounced dead a few hours later in hospital.

BBC NI's Will Leitch:
"During the service, John's father Ian spoke movingly about his son for more than 15 minutes"

Young Irish star dies
27 Mar 04  |  Irish
Armagh win the Schools' Cup
16 Mar 04  |  Irish

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