THE heartbroken mother of a 13-year-old rising sports star who died from a suspected asthma attack after scoring a crucial goal in a game, has spoken of her sadness at not being able to see her only son grow “into a lovely young man”.
The town of Kilmallock was plunged into mourning last week when news filtered through that one of its most popular and endearing young men has passed away in the early hours of the morning after suffering a severe asthma attack.
Only hours earlier James Long had returned to the hurling heartland a hero, after he helped secure an important victory over Patrickswell in a crunch game.
A “rasper” of a goal by the flamed haired, brown eyed boy with the number 18 on his back had sealed the win for the Balbec side in the match against Patrickswell.
“He would have been a lovely young man. I was looking forward to seeing him grow up,” said his mum Barbara this week at the family home in Kilmallock.
Sitting in the front room of the neat bungalow in Bantard South, Barbara is surrounded by memories of James, “a live wire”, “not always a saint” but “good to his core”.
There is the PixiFoto of the beaming toddler, James, in the corner surrounded by candles and mass cards. Milly his beloved brown and white Jack Russell is asleep on the couch. His school photograph is in the arms of his heartbroken
“School was just a social event for James. It was more the banter and the craic,” she recalls fondly.
The one subject James really wanted to do well in his summer exams was Irish. His delight at his result three weeks ago was illustrated with a fist punch in the air as he ran up the main street in Kilmallock to meet his mam. “I nailed Irish. I nailed it, he said’,” recalls Barbara.
James was a clever boy but he had other things on his mind. He had to be in the thick of everything.
His day began at 7.15 when he would make the short trip up to the top of the Bantard road to the yard of a local greyhound trainer to walk the greyhounds. He had secured the job himself, two years ago by approaching the greyhound trainer and asking him for a job.
The sports mad teenager loved all sports but soccer was his real passion. He had been watching all the Irish games in the Euros “in disgust”. James was always guaranteed his place on the local soccer team. He was a striker. The number 9 jersey was his and by all accounts he was good. While soccer was his first love, James was eager to make an impression on the hurling pitch this year.
And his moment of glory came on a fine mid-summer’s evening in Patrickswell on June 20 when he rattled the ‘Well goal with what he described himself as a “rasper”.
“I missed it. All his soccer games I would have seen,” said Barbara who at was work that evening in Patrickswell.
She learned of her son’s triumph via a text sent to her phone at twenty minutes past nine.
She leans over to get her Nokia mobile and she opens the text from the sender ‘James’. “We were down by 2 (points) and I came on in corner-forward and scored a rasper of a goal and then Cal came and scored another one, ha . . . I’ll tell u about it in the morn .”
That night James went to bed “the ring of applause in his ears” and woke around ten minutes to midnight experiencing breathing difficulties. James had suffered with “moderate asthma”.
He got up and took a couple of puffs from his inhaler. “But it was very quick, it was very, very quick,” Sandra, his aunt, recalls.
When Barbara got the call from Sandra to come home she got in her car immediately. Barbara travelled with James in the ambulance to the Mid-Western Regional hospital.
Despite the best efforts of the paramedics and nurses, the family were told at five minutes past two that James had passed.
“The next door neighbour was fantastic as were the paramedics and nurses, everybody was. We are overwhelmed by the support from the community,” said Barbara. “It would restore your faith in human nature,” added Sandra.
The family, including James’ two sisters Kate and Sarah, visit his grave in nearby Bulgaden Cemetery a couple of times a day. “The girls have fabulous friends, they have been really keeping them going,” said Barbara.
The heartbroken mother hasn’t entered her son’s room since his passing.
“I am still waiting for him to run in the door”.
For more see this weekend’s Limerick Leader, print edition.