Sunday 23 October 2016

Golfing legend Christy Jnr laid to rest by family

President and sports stars join crowd of 2,000 to say a sad farewell

Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30

The remains of Christy O'Connor Jnr at Galway Cathedral ahead of his funeral mass. Photo: Steve Humphreys
The remains of Christy O'Connor Jnr at Galway Cathedral ahead of his funeral mass. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Nigel O'Connor (front left of coffin) carries the remains of his father Christy Of Connor Jnr. from Galway Cathedral. Christy's wife Ann and daughter Ann follow in backround. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Jim Sheridan at the funeral of Christy O'Connor Jnr. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Denis O'Brien at the funeral of Christy O'Connor Jnr. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Paul McGinley
Golfer Sam Torrance attending the funeral mass of Christy Of Connor Jnr. Photo: Steve Humphreys
President Michael D Higgins at the funeral mass. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Brian Cowen attends the funeral of Christy O'Connor Jnr. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Golfer Eamonn Darcy. Photo: Steve Humphreys

A sombre funeral bell tolled as hundreds of mourners filed into Galway Cathedral to pay their final respects to a sporting giant.

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Gathered from every corner of Ireland, a pall of grief hung heavy in the air, as family and friends said a fond farewell to Christy O'Connor Junior.

The 67-year-old, best remembered for a lead role in the Ryder Cup win in 1989, had been on holiday in Tenerife when he suddenly died in his sleep last week.

The chief mourners were his wife Ann, son Nigel and daughter Ann.

The funeral couldn't escape a touch of stardust and grandeur, as dignitaries, senior politicians, as well as golfing legends gathered to pay homage.

President Michael D Higgins, Ryder Cup-winning captain Paul McGinley, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Irish racehorse trainer Michael 'Mouse' Morris, filmmaker Jim Sheridan and businessman Denis O'Brien were among some 2,000 mourners who gathered to say goodbye.

All agreed Christy was a sportsman who captured the heart of a nation during his glory days on the golf course.

But ultimately the funeral was an expression of private grief by those who knew him best and adored him most.

Chief celebrant, retired parish priest Fr Michael Kelly, who is a close family friend, said Christy was a "proud Irishman" who had sampled much triumph and the deepest of tragedies.

He pointed out that Christy's untimely death was not the first such trauma to befall the family, referring to the accident in which the golfer's son, Darren, died almost 18 years ago.

The devastation that followed the death of the 17-year-old in 1998 was a cross Christy found difficult to come to terms with.

"They say it is not how a person died that is important but how he lived," Fr Kelly told the packed congregation.

"For Christy, as for Darren, the end came suddenly and too soon. He spoke openly and confidently of his conviction that he would meet Darren again - not quite so soon, I imagine.

"A star has fallen but his light will continue to shine."

The deceased golfer's uncle, 91-year-old Christy O'Connor Senior, who had nurtured his nephew's sporting talents, was unable to attend the funeral.

Movingly, a procession of items were brought to the altar which represented a varied life: a family photograph, a Ryder Cup trophy, an accordion, and a golf course design map.

And in a highly emotional moment, his daughter Ann spoke from the altar, telling how the entire family have been left bereft by his passing.

She told a hushed congregation at the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas that his greatest achievement was being a "wonderful husband, dad, and adored Papa".

"You had a wonderful way of making people feel so special," she said

Midway through her tribute, her voice faltered, and she struggled to continue.

But her brother Nigel standing by her side, helped her read the remainder of the eulogy, which they spoke in unison.

After the service, some smiles had returned, as old friends started uncorking anecdotes of times they had spent with Christy.

Irish Independent

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