LOUGHGIEL hurling club has hundreds of staunch supporters whose loyalty has been even more evident since the recent success in the All-Ireland club championship and this year’s remarkable run in the same competition.
One of the most loyal followers was William Johnston, popularly known as Striker, who never missed a game home or away and was one of the first through the turnstiles to cheer on his beloved Shamrocks.
His joy at seeing them winning the All-Ireland final as well as this year’s run masked a serious illness he had been coping with since first diagnosed last November.
Sadly, the illness took his life on February 10 at the age of 49. He would have been 50 in August.
William’s passing touched many and, in particular, members and officials of the Loughgiel club who greatly value their supporters.
None more so than talisman, Liam Watson, who has proved the saviour of the club on numerous occasions and especially during the semi-final stalemate against St.Thomas’s at Parnell Park when his goal in the dying seconds earned his club a replay.
To get the hold of Liam’s hurley afterwards was surely something on the minds of many, but the destiny of the stick was to have much happier and touching consequences.
For when Liam learned of the death the following day and knowing of the commitment and passion William felt for the club, he called at the home of the Johnston family at Ballyknock and offered to place his stick in William’s coffin as its final resting place.
It was gesture that touched the hearts of the bereaved family and something they had never contemplated would happen.
Mr. Stanley Johnston told the Times: “William attended the first semi-final game and took a turn for the worse that night. He died the following day.
“We had no idea that Liam would do this, but it was something we feel very humbled by. Liam is a gentleman and his thoughts are very much appreciated by us all.”
William Johnston who leaves behind his father, mother, Mary, and brothers, Gary and Paul, was a well-known figure who worked for a time in Cloughmills before health problems set in.
The service took place at St. Patrick’s Church, Loughgiel, conducted by the Rev. Robert Butler. Members of the Shamrocks club were present as a mark of respect.