'A legend through and through' - Dubs stars among those mourning at funeral of 'Blue Panther' Anton O'Toole
The Sam Maguire Cup stood proudly on the altar of Mount Argus Church in Dublin today as a touching tribute to Dubs legend Anton O’Toole.
'The Blue Panther' was given the ultimate send-off by some of Dublin's most celebrated GAA stars of past and present days and were among hundreds of other mourners, who were eager to say their final goodbyes.
Former teammates of the all-star player, who were described as a “great comfort” to Anton before he died, helped to carry his coffin up to the church.
Members of the current Dublin senior team and Templeogue-Synge Street GAA, were also given the honour to carry it and were met with a resounding applause from the congregation.
Personal possessions that reflected the deep loves of the 68-year-old's life were laid out before the altar.
These included his binoculars, which symbolised his love of horse racing; his cherished hat, and an Amy Winehouse CD that signified his love of music.
The Boys in Blue even brought the Sam Maguire Cup to the service, which Anton helped to secure for Dublin four times in '74, ‘76, ‘77 and ‘83.
Parish priest Fr Joe Kennedy described the Blue Panther as a “legend, through and through”.
“He was an extraordinary man who had done the entire city of Dublin proud on many occasions,” he said.
“People have come up from all over the country to be here, including his old teammates, and I’m sure his family greatly appreciate their efforts.”
Anton’s sister Nuala Leacy told the congregation that she was amazed at the level of support her brother received during his illness.
“He had so many groups of friends from the GAA, horse racing and golf,” she said.
“They all came to visit him when he was sick and stayed by his side till the very end. He was an amazing person who deserves all the admiration show to him.
“Anton fought his illness with great strength and bravery, and I’m so proud to have had him as a brother,” she said.
Before the service ended, Irish Musician Mary Black, who was a close friend of Anton’s, sang ‘Raglan Road’, alongside the GAA legend’s former teammates
Among some notable figures who attended the funeral, included Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring and Comdt. Caroline Burke, who is the Aide de Camp to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was also on hand to offer his support to Anton’s family.
“I remember fondly following his career in the 70s and 80s,” he told Independent.ie
“I’m delighted I could be here to offer my condolences to his family and pay tribute to one of the greatest Dublin players of all time,” he said.
Yesterday, many of O'Toole's former team-mates, such as Sean Doherty, Paddy Reilly and John McCarthy, expressed fond memories of their beloved friend.
Former All-Star David Hickey even flew in from Dubai to spend time celebrating the life of the 68-year-old, who passed away peacefully on Friday.
Members of Dublin's current senior team, such as Cian O'Sullivan, Jack McCaffrey, Jonny Cooper and Michael Fitzsimons, were also seen offering comfort to Anton's family
His sister Nuala Leacy told Independent.ie that she was "immensely grateful" to everyone who offered their support.
"I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am, especially to Anton's former club mates in Templeogue Synge Street," she said.
"There's 10 years' difference between us, but I always looked up to him because he was such a fantastic brother who would do anything for anyone.
"I'm sure there will be a huge crowd at the funeral service, which just goes to show how so many people held him in such high regard.
"We're going to give him the send-off he deserves and celebrate a life well lived."
Ms Leacy's twin daughters Laura and Niamh (21), from Walkinstown, told Independent.ie that they have their uncle to thank for their obsession with Gaelic football.
The siblings, who both play on the same team for Synge Street GAA, said they will carry on his name throughout their sporting careers.
"Anton is actually the reason why we decided to take up football," said Niamh.
"He had such an impact on our lives that wherever we went, we were always introduced, not as Niamh or Laura, but as Anton O'Toole's nieces.
"He was always so encouraging and loved watching us play in matches. He gave us so much praise and made sure his passion for the game rubbed off on us."
Laura said they will be playing their next game on Wednesday in honour of their uncle.
"We've won all of our league games so far in division two at senior level and will have Anton in our hearts when we play our next match," she added.
"We both play corner back and have actually been told we look like him when we're on the pitch."