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Big kick off approaches for ‘Stephen’s Green’

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

WHAT better memorial could there be to young Stephen McElroy than a sports field?

Those were the thoughts of the late 11-year-old schoolboy's parents Paul and Pattie, and thus 'Stephen's Green' will officially open on September 2.

Stephen lost his life on March 29 2015, when he died just hours after his serious bowel condition was not diagnosed by a doctor in Daisy Hill Hospital.

The young man was crazy about sport, and is remembered by his mother as having "a quare left foot" on him.

In fact, she remembers him breaking a window at the house with a powerful shot and also knocking some slates off the roof.

Touchingly, Mrs McElroy says she will never replace those slates, "because he knocked them down."

Stephen was a pupil of St Mary's Primary School Dechomet, and that school will be one of the chief beneficiaries of the new 50 metres by 25 metres pitch, which has been constructed on land leased at "a very nominal rate" from a local landowner.

Mrs McElroy told us what is planned for the opening of 'Stephen's Green' - a name suggested by someone from the local community.

"We have Mayobridge band coming down and doing a wee bit of a parade into the field," she said.

"And there are going to be boys who played in Stephen's teams there. He played for Rathfriland soccer club, the school team and he played for Leitrim Gaelic club.

"They are going to make two teams and have a game of gaelic, and then make two teams and have a game of soccer.

"It's a gaelic pitch, a soccer pitch, a rugby pitch - whatever you want it to be.

"I want it to be cross community, and if anybody wants to use the pitch for anything - they can use it.

"The main users of it will be the school. They will have access to it every day."

The months after the untimely passing of their eldest child were obviously very dark days for the McElroy family. In October of 2015, they set up SMART - the Stephen McElroy Appreciation and Remembrance Team.

Fundraising efforts for this charity have so far raised over £55,000, with most of that going towards the new pitch. The remainder will go to CRUES Bereavement Care, and to local mental health groups.

Mrs McElroy explains how important those fundraising efforts were, and continue to be.

"Initially it was the only thing that kept us going at all, and still it is," she said. "It keeps us focussed."

"And now that we have all the money raised for the pitch - we are still going to continue raising money, but on a lesser scale. There'll be no big events like we had before.

"We'll have other things coming up to keep the charity going for mental health and for bereavement groups as well.

"You never could replace Stephen - but we wanted to do something just to keep his memory alive. We just want people to know that he was here.

"And the community have been fantastic - both sides of the community have been really good and supportive.

"And that's what we want this day to be as well."

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