'We love you, dad' - JT's children pay loving tribute at his funeral
Published 30/07/2016 | 02:30
The 'Prince of Manister', and a National Hunt champion with 600 winners. A man who did not mince his words and who was sometimes a little grumpy. A courageous soldier who had battled on when the chips were down and had borne his suffering with fortitude.
JT McNamara (41) had been all of this and more, his death carving a gaping void in the tight-knit, fiercely fought world of racing.
But it was the halting words of the jockey's youngest son, Harry, that sent the tears tumbling down the cheeks of mourners, as he thanked God for "my dad", saying: "We ask the angels to take good care of you. We love you, dad."
Amid grief and gratitude for a life cut short yet lived to the full, they gathered at the little church in Manister, Co Limerick, where the jockey had faithfully attended.
JT's wife, Caroline, received a standing ovation as she spoke of her husband's courage, saying he had continued to set himself goals "all the time" and that getting back home and out to his yard had been a major achievement for him.
She thanked the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund, the Turf Club and the Injured Jockeys Fund UK, saying that without their assistance "JT's return would not have been possible".
Before the Mass, Dylan and Harry brought up JT's racing silks and crop, together with a photograph.
President Michael D Higgins was represented by his aide-de-camp, Commandant Michael Kiernan, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by ADC Kieran Carey.
Many senior figures from the world of racing filled the little church, including JP McManus, his wife Noreen and sons John and Kieran.
Mr McManus later said JT "did not die in vain", because the lives and welfare of many jockeys will be much improved because of the increased awareness and greater fundraising.
"So much good came out of it. So many people with injuries will be better off in the future, people rallied around when he got injured. There was a great love for him and his family," he said.
Tony McCoy said he would never forget the day of the fall in Cheltenham.
"He was a very brave person, a very tough man," he said.
"But he'd suffered enough. It's terrible - it's sad for everyone, for his wife Caroline and the kids, but they can be very proud of him and for the last three-and-a-half years he's made the most of a horrific situation."
He also said he believed his death was not in vain, explaining: "A lot of people were brought together and the welfare and care of jockeys will hopefully be better."
Trainers Ted Walsh Snr, Mouse Morris, Tom Taaffe, Willie Mullins, Enda Bolger and Gordon Elliot were among those present.
Around 30 jockeys formed a guard of honour as the remains left the church for burial. Among them were Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty, Nina Carberry, AP McCoy, Davy Russell, Robbie Power and Robbie McNamara, along with former jockey Mick Kinane and Jonjo O'Neill.
Chief celebrant of the funeral, Canon Gary Bluett, paid tribute to JT with the words of Shakespeare, saying: "Goodnight sweet prince, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
"That was Hamlet - Prince of Denmark... John - Prince of Manister. May he rest in peace," he said.
Afterwards, Ruby Walsh said that what had happened at Cheltenham that day was "every jockey's worst nightmare".
"You couldn't start to think about how you'd cope with it," Walsh said.