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Saturday 20 September 2014

Family's sad farewell to tragic rugby captain Cathal Sweeney

Published 18/02/2014 | 02:30

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Mourners at the funeral mass of Cathal Sweeney (inset) at the Church of St. Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Mourners at the funeral mass of Cathal Sweeney (inset) at the Church of St. Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Rugby pundit Brent Pope during the funeral mass of Cathal Sweeney at the Church of St. Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Rugby pundit Brent Pope during the funeral mass of Cathal Sweeney at the Church of St. Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
17/02/2014 Mourners at the funeral mass of Cathal Sweeney at the Church of St. Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Mourners at the funeral mass of Cathal Sweeney at the Church of St. Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

ON the day he died, former rugby captain Cathal Sweeney was supposed to be watching Ireland take on Wales in the Six Nations in a pub with a group of former Irish internationals. There were seven seats lined up at the Dropping Well pub – but the seventh remained empty as he never showed up.

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Former Ireland international Terry Kennedy, the godfather of one of Mr Sweeney's children and who also attended his funeral, revealed they never found out why Mr Sweeney (62) instead chose to watch the match at a Dublin flat, saying he might otherwise still be alive today.

Mr Sweeney's son, former Dublin hurling captain David Sweeney, spoke with moving honesty at his father's funeral, saying alcohol had "destroyed" his dad.

Cathal Sweeney, a former captain of St Mary's Rugby Club Templeogue in Dublin, died after being beaten to death in Terenure following the Ireland and Wales Six Nations game on February 8.

Hundreds of mourners attended his funeral at the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Terenure. Amongst them was former Ireland captain Ciaran Fitzgerald along with former Irish internationals Terry Kennedy, Phil Orr, Rodney O'Donnell and John Moloney.

Also present were former international player Jim Glennon; former president of the IRFU John Hussey; publican Charlie Chawke; and rugby analyst Brent Pope.

The chief mourners were Mr Sweeney's children, David, Tim and Fiona, his wife Niamh, from whom he separated many years ago, brothers John, JB and sisters Mary and Ann.

In an emotional eulogy, David Sweeney said he was not going to stand up and claim that his father was a saint. "It is well known that everything wasn't rosy, our family had its ups and downs," he said.

He revealed that in a conversation with his siblings, he had said: "Alcohol destroyed our family." However, his sister Fiona told him he was wrong, saying: "It did not destroy the family. It just destroyed our dad."

"She's right," David told mourners. "Our family is strong. Our mother has kept everything together over the years. I know we will get through this eventually."

He described his father as a good person and a "very generous man who didn't really care for money or material things".

In an emotional address to his father, he said: "I never really said 'I loved you' but I did, we all do."

Prolonged applause rang out in the church as he finished by saying he hoped his father is happy now and at peace, perhaps "painting something or maybe watching a match".

Irish Independent

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