'For Christy Jnr, as for his son Darren, the end came suddenly and too soon' - huge crowd attends funeral of golfing legend
"HIS leaving has left our world a poorer place," Fr Michael Kelly told mourners at the Requiem Mass for Christy O'Connor Jnr this afternoon, as he also invoked memories of the golfer's son Darren, who died tragically in a road accident in 1998.
A huge crowd - including famous faces from the worlds of sport, politics and showbusiness - are paying their last respects to the golf legend at the service in his home city of Galway.
President Michael D Higgins, Ryder Cup winning captain Paul McGinley, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Irish racehorse trainer, Michael 'Mouse' Morris, and businessman Denis O'Brien are among some 2,500 mourners attending the Requiem Mass.
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 died in his sleep last Wednesday.
Christy Jnr is survived by his wife Ann, son Nigel and daughter Ann. The golfer's other son, Darren, died aged just 17.
Father Kelly told the mourners who attended today's mass that the O'Connors "are well acquainted with grief and pain and have acquitted themselves with distinction in the face of it.
"They say 'it is not how a person died that is important but how he lived'," he added.
"For Christy, as for Darren, the end came suddenly and too soon," he said.
"He spoke openly and confidently of his conviction that he would meet Darren again – not quite so soon, I imagine."
Fr Kelly said Christy Jnr prayed to Darren and for Darren, "and was convinced that Darren came to his assistance more than once".
"Throughout those dark days and during Ann’s illness their faith supported them and enabled them carry their cross with great dignity," the priest added.
"Unfortunately that same belief will not fill the vacant chair or the emptiness you are experiencing in your hearts today.
"A star has fallen but his light will continue to shine."
Among the symbols presented at the Mass were the Ryder Cup Trophy. Among those who spoke before the Mass were fellow golfer Eamonn Darcy and his close personal friend John Mulholland, a former mayor of Galway.
His wife Ann and son Nigel are due to give the eulogy.
Many of the tributes outside the Cathedral earlier today acknowledged O'Connor's charm and personality, that forged lifetime friendships, during his many years as one of our top golfers.
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen described how he had a deep personal friendship with the golfing legend.
"I was only talking to him during Christmas week. He was in good form and we had a great chat.
"He was looking forward to taking a little but of a break - but unfortunately we're here today only a few weeks later.
"A lot of people throughout the country recognise the ambassadorial role he played for the country during his career.
"He was always lighthearted, always great company.
"He'll be sadly missed by all who knew him, and the golfing community generally."
Speaking to the assembled media outside the cathedral, Paul McGinley described O'Connor as a luminary in the golfing world.
"He showed me how to have fun - that's the thing I most remember about Christy.
"It's not the two iron or all the great golf he played.
"It's the fact that every day was a fun day for him.
"He loved his life. I loved to see him sing, loved to see him play the spoons.
"He was just a lot of fun."
Tributes flooded in from across the world of sport, society and politics, with the golfer fondly remembered for his good nature, generosity and most famously for defying the odds to help Europe beat the US.
Father Kelly spoke of these "steady flow of glowing tributes" for the "proud Galway man" at the moving ceremony at the City's Cathedral Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas.
"Tributes to the golfer – one of our greatest, to the family-man, who showed enormous pride in his family and never failed to acknowledge them when celebrating his achievements," he said at the service.
"Tributes to a friend – and everybody felt they were one of them. I have no doubt Christy had a large number of very close personal friends but he had the gift of making every acquaintance feel that they were special – and he treated them accordingly.
"There were tributes to the fundraiser, who had raised huge amounts for worthy charities down through the years – from missionaries in Africa to the Galway Hospice foundation last July.
"The famous 2 Iron alone was a powerful fundraising weapon," he said. They were all tributes to “a great human being, whom we had the privilege to be associated with in one way or another."
Among those who paid respects to the family at a removal service on Monday evening were Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The golfer, who had been awarded the freedom of his native city and an honorary degree at NUI Galway, will be buried in Rahoon cemetery.