Video: GAA icon Heffo begins his final journey
Published 29/01/2013 | 05:00
A short journey, but one that summed up a lifetime of achievement, and the greatness of a legacy to a city and to sport.
All-Ireland winning Dublin footballer and manager Kevin 'Heffo' Heffernan was brought to his removal service yesterday evening via the gifts he has left behind.
From St Francis Hospice in Raheny, Heffo's coffin travelled down the Howth Road, then onto Collins Avenue, before turning in for one last stop outside the home of Dublin GAA, Parnell Park, the place where he planned greatness for his sides.
From there, it was the short distance back onto the Malahide Road, passing the entrance to St Vincent's, his beloved club in Marino, and Clontarf Golf Club.
On a cold, drizzly evening, traffic stopped as the hearse turned down Griffith Avenue, with a folded Dublin flag on the coffin, but stopped just short of the entrance to the St Vincent De Paul Church at 5.40.
Heffo's coffin was taken from the hearse, to be carried the final few yards into the church.
He was carried firstly by members of Clontarf Golf Club, and then members of the great 1970s team he built towards All-Ireland success.
The team that created the ideal of 'The Dubs', made Hill 16 on a summer Sunday, and bequeathed an identity for a city and a county.
Anton O'Toole, Jimmy Keaveney, Kevin Moran, Robbie Kelleher, Bobby Doyle and Gay O'Driscoll shouldered the coffin first, and then passed it to members of the Dublin team Heffo rebuilt to 1983 All-Ireland glory – Joe McNally, John O'Leary, Tommy Conroy, Tommy Drumm, Barney Rock and John Caffrey. Both groups of men with unshakeable bonds forged by their former manager.
Heffo's coffin then passed to Vincent's players who are current or recent members of the Dublin senior football panel.
Ger Brennan, Diarmuid Connolly, Eamon Fennell, Tomas 'Mossy' Quinn, Michael Savage and Tiarnan Diamond brought the coffin to the entrance of the church when it was taken by close friends, including former Dublin manager Pat Gilroy.
They were followed by Mr Heffernan's wife Mary, his daughter Orla and extended family.
Younger Vincent's members formed a guard of honour, decked out in club jerseys and tracksuits, around the church.
Nearby schools not only had Vincent's flags flying at half-mast on flagpoles in the schoolyard, but club and Dublin flags hanging from windows and doors.
A few fans in Dublin gear were among the 1,000 plus who came to pay their respects and give thanks to the man who gave his city and the GAA so much.
His friend and colleague from the ESB, Michael Hayden, the former managing director of ESB International, paid tribute to Mr Heffernan from the altar, saying he "achieved extraordinary things through his life".
"The huge attendance we have here tonight, and all the publicity is a testament to those achievements," Mr Hayden said. "Despite all of that, he resolutely, right through his life, he resolutely refused to be considered to be an exceptional person in any sense.
"Those of you who know him well will know he always kept his feet firmly on the ground.
"He had an unflinching adherence to principles that he thought were important."
But more than anything, yesterday evening was a Vincent's affair, with Monsignor John Fitzpatrick – nephew of Vincent's founder Brother Fitzpatrick – the chief celebrant.
"I suppose I know Vincent's all my life, from a distance," he said.
"I have always thought of Vincent's as a family. Bonds were there like family, again expressed tonight."
Mr Heffernan's son-in-law Paul O'Connor also gave a reading.
Afterwards, Heffo's former team-mates like Mickey Whelan, players and foes mingled and chatted about the master.
Heffo's battles are done now.
Irish IndependentFollow @Independent_ie