THOUSANDS of mourners today paid their respects to tragic hurler Niall Donohue as he was waked at the family home.
Amongst the callers to the family home to were renowned Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody. Also calling to express his condolences to Niall's family was egendary GAA commentator Micheal O'Muircheartaigh and the President of the GAA Liam O'Neill.
Also paying their respects was Niall's second cousin Clare hurler nd All-Ireland hat-trick hero Shane O'Donnell and the full Galway senior panel. Retired Cork hurler Tomas Mulcahy also paid his respects to the family.
The sense of grief was palpable in the village of Kilbeacanty Co Galway as locals rallied around the heartbroken Donohue family.
The community has been in a state of shock since news of Niall's untimely death emerged.
The 22-year-old was found dead at home on Wednesday night. He would have celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday.
A Facebook tribute from the village, listed on the Kilbeacanty Old and New site read; "There is a cloud over Kilbeacanty, the sun came up but it did not take away the darkness. You can feel the sorrow, nearly see it."
The remains of the popular young hurler were brought home on Friday evening where the family, his father Francis, brother Shane and sister Orla held a private vigil with relatives. From 3pm today friends, colleagues, teammates and hurling fans made their way to the family home in Ballyturn outside the south Galway village to sympathise with the family and pay their respects.
In the past five days the community has rallied around the Donohue family, especially Niall's heartbroken father and siblings. Niall was raised by his father Francis following the death of his mother Mary when he was a child. The family had only been getting over the loss of Niall's grandmother who died in recent months, and with whom Niall was particularly close.
Locals from the community and Kilbeacanty GAA club organised the poignant tribute working as stewards, setting up a one way system and manning all access roads to the village in a bid to keep traffic flowing as the huge number of mourners made their way to the family home.
Parking was set up in a number of local businesses to assist the huge numbers who attended.
Stars from the world of hurling came out to pay their respects to a much loved teammate and opponent yesterday. Among those who arrived at the Donohue home was Noel Treacy, Chairman of the Galway County Board and Galway manager Anthony Cunningham.
Friends of the young man who were based in Australia had accompanied his brother Shane home after he received the news earlier this week. Niall has also spent a brief period in Australia after finishing school. Prior to his tragic death he had worked at Lisk Ireland Manufacturing in nearby Gort and a number of his colleagues also attended the removal.
While he was a gifted hurler, taking to the sport when he was just five years of age and following in the footsteps of his uncles, for his local community he was remembered for much more than his sporting achievements. They recall a "shy unassuming lad, he who was happier talking to old lads in McCarthy’s or young kids at the pitch or being with his large circle of friends than being in the spotlight.”
As the huge crowds continued to arrive, the local GAA club appealed to the public to respect the family's call for privacy tomorrow morning.
"It has been a tough week for the family and it will be a long tiring couple of days for them also, they are our priority right now and whatever they wish for we will carry out. Please be patient and sensitive as the whole parish is in mourning right now and together we will do what needs to be done to ensure Niall and his family get the respect he deserves," read a statement from the Kilbeacanty GAA club.
The young hurler's remains will be removed to St Columba's Church in Kilbeacanty tomorrow morning Funeral mass will take place at 1pm with burial afterward in Rakerin graveyard. Niall's teammates from the Galway Senior Panel will meet the remains of the tragic 22-year-old at his beloved Kilbeacanty GAA club before accompanying him on his final journey to the Church. Members of Kilbeacanty GAA will provide the guard of honour as his remains are carried from the Church to the graveyard this afternoon.
As a mark of respect for Niall, the Galway SHC final between Loughrea and Portumna which had been due to take place tomorrow has been rescheduled for tomorrow.
“There is a dark cloud over Kilbeacanty now and it will be there for a long time. The bed of Heaven to you Niall, you’re in your Mother’s arms now,” the community tribute added.