Mourners at hurler's funeral are urged to talk about their worries
Published 28/10/2013 | 01:55
"TODAY, as you stand next to the people you love, remember Niall and be brave enough to talk."
The words hung in the silence of the church, where 1,000 mourners had gathered to pay their last respects to star hurler Niall Donohue.
His cousin, Neil McDonagh, said friends and family had been left "confused and hurt" by his sudden death, but must speak honestly and openly about matters of mental health.
The 22-year-old Galway hurler from Kilbeacanty was found dead in tragic circumstances at his home last Wednesday night. He would have celebrated his 23rd birthday last Friday.
Mr McDonagh said that if his cousin was alive, he would urge others with difficulties to talk to someone.
Speaking of Niall's personal faith, he told the congregation he played his matches with a miraculous medal sewn into his shorts.
His pre-match preparation in the past few years had included going to confession. On one occasion while leaving the confessional, he decided he had to go back.
"He said, 'I'm sorry, but I have to go back in again. I need to be more truthful this time'," said Mr McDonagh.
"Were he here, were he to speak to any one of you who is having difficulty in your own lives, he would tell you to go back in a second time and talk to someone."
Parish priest Fr Pat Callanan said: "We must as a community look out for each other and be aware of any signs of difficulty in a person's life."
Niall reached the pinnacle of his sporting career only last year when he helped Galway to the All-Ireland final, which went to a replay before Kilkenny took the title.
Niall's father Francie, his brother Shane, sister Orla and girlfriend Ciara Reilly were comforted by family and friends as they made their way into St Columba's Church in their hometown.
Among the mourners were former GAA president Joe McDonagh, former Dublin captain Dessie Farrell and Cork goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack. Shane O'Donnell, the hero a month ago when Clare won the All-Ireland, is Niall's second cousin and was in the congregation.
Local TD Ciaran Cannon and former TD Frank Fahey also attended, as did the mayors of Galway city and county, Padraig Conneely and Liam Carroll.
Galway hurling manager Anthony Cunningham and team captain Fergal Moore read prayers of the faithful.
Gifts brought to the altar included Niall's hurley and helmet, Galway and Kilbeacanty jerseys and his Bible.
As the coffin was conveyed to the church, members of the Galway senior panel formed a guard of honour. They then carried their team-mate's remains into St Columba's.
Following Mass, members of the inter-county panel carried the coffin out of the church before delivering Niall to his Kilbeacanty club team-mates, who carried him to Rakerin graveyard for burial.