Weeks before George Elliott’s death Archdeacon Brian Harper gave him a Gideon Bible to read.

The Bible, a number of which had been distributed throughout his beloved Ballinamallard United Football Club, brought great comfort to the father of two who had been diagnosed with cancer five years before.

Then a week later as the two men celebrated Holy Communion together Archdeacon Harper observed how the inspirational football coach appeared to be transfixed on a specific verse. During the reading the 63 year old stared at the page, with a smile on his face.

Archdeacon Harper recalled this special moment at Mr. Elliott’s funeral at Magheracross Parish Church last Thursday.

“There is a reference in the service to the comfortable words of Jesus to those who turn to him. These are words of strength and encouragement,” he told mourners.

“I read one of these sentences and George interrupted me to point out that it was the same sentence that he had read and remembered in the Bible: ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest,’” he said.

The poignancy of that moment was not lost on the hundreds of mourners who had turned out inside the church to pay their respects, or the many who queued on the street outside on a bitterly cold January afternoon to listen the service on a loud speaker.

Mourners came together to support Mr. Elliott’s family, including his mother Noreen, wife Gloria, sons Paul and Gareth, sisters Noreen, Thelma and Pauline and brother Tom Elliott, the former MP, MLA and Councillor, and currently the chairman of Ballinamallard United Football Club.

Sporting figures Harry McConkey, Shane McCabe, Paul Keenan and Gerard Connolly joined figures from politics including Robin Swann, Sir Reg Empey, Arlene Foster and Bert Johnston to pay their respects, along with representatives from community groups and sporting organisations, including the Irish Football Association, Enniskillen Rangers, Kesh Football Club, Enniskillen Town United and Super Cup NI.

Archdeacon Harper spoke of a man who loved life and all those in it, and someone who dealt with his illness with “courage” while “pressing forward without self pity”.

He recalled how when someone sympathised with Mr. Elliott on the suffering he had experienced he replied: “Along with thousands of others.”

“He took one day at a time, we cannot change what has happened and we do not know what is to come,” said Archdeacon Harper.

He explained how Mr. Elliott had been raised on the family farm by his parents, John and Noreen at Tullyraine and alongside Thelma, Pauline and Thomas.

“He was a reluctant pupil at Kilskeery and a reluctant farmer but he still stuck to his responsibilities and would have milked a few cows before heading up the road for school. But even if the cows didn’t appeal, George was interested in the machinery around the farm and this led to his career as a mechanic. He left school as soon as possible and began working with a full time apprenticeship from the tech at Aikens garage.

"This led to employment with the Department of Environment where he worked for 35 years,” he said.

During that time, he met and married Gloria Hoey and the date was set for May 21 as the football season would be over, but as Archdeacon Harper explained it turned out to be FA Cup Final Day “so the guests kept disappearing from the reception to catch the score”.

“Watching Match of the Day was essential on the first night of their marriage, a marriage marked by commitment and love to one another with football a high priority,” he said.

Mr. Elliott’s sister Pauline reduced many mourners to tears when during an unscripted remark she spoke of how her dear brother spread love wherever he went, and how everyone should “go out and do the same”.

That love for Mr. Elliott was evident when many took it in turns to carry his coffin through the streets of Ballinamallard to his final resting place at Craghan Cemetery, with the words of Archdeacon Harper still ringing in the cold air.

“Love is patient, love is kind, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

“That is how I found George. A man of love,” he said.