Tuesday 25 June 2019

'A legend through and through' - Dubs stars among those mourning at funeral of 'Blue Panther' Anton O'Toole

Bobby Doyle, Kevin Moran and Paddy Cullen shoulder the remains of Anton O'Toole for his funeral mass in the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin.
Pic:Mark Condren
20.5.2019
Bobby Doyle, Kevin Moran and Paddy Cullen shoulder the remains of Anton O'Toole for his funeral mass in the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 20.5.2019
Members of the current Dublin Senior football team carry legend Anton O'Toole remains to the the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus in Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 20.5.2019
Bertie Ahern at the funeral mass of Anton O'Toole at the the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus in Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 20.5.2019
(from left) Dublin greats past and present, John McCarthy, David Hickey and Dean Rock at the funeral mass of Anton O'Toole Pic:Mark Condren 20.5.2019
Bernard Brogan at the funeral mass of Anton O'Toole at the the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus in Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 20.5.2019
Tony Hanahoe and former Supreme Court judge Hugh O'Flaherty at the funeral mass of Anton O'Toole Pic:Mark Condren 20.5.2019
Anton O'Toole
Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh at the funeral mass of Anton O'Toole at the the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus in Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 20.5.2019
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

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. 

Mourners at the funeral of Dublin hero Anton O'Toole. Pic: Mark Condren
Mourners at the funeral of Dublin hero Anton O'Toole. Pic: Mark Condren

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.”

Mourners at the funeral of Dublin legend Anton O'Toole. Pic: Mark Condren
Mourners at the funeral of Dublin legend Anton O'Toole. Pic: Mark Condren

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. 

Paddy Cullen and Anton O’Toole at an event to mkark the 40th anniversary of Dublin’s 1974 All-Ireland win
Paddy Cullen and Anton O’Toole at an event to mkark the 40th anniversary of Dublin’s 1974 All-Ireland win

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. 

Templeogue Synge Street jersey and the Dublin Number 10 jersey are placed on the coffin of Anton O'Toole at the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus in Dublin.
Pic:Mark Condren
20.5.2019
Templeogue Synge Street jersey and the Dublin Number 10 jersey are placed on the coffin of Anton O'Toole at the Church of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus in Dublin. Pic:Mark Condren 20.5.2019

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

Dublin’s Anton O’Toole is chased by Kerry’s Jimmy Deenihan during the 1979 All-Ireland SFC final at Croke Park
Dublin’s Anton O’Toole is chased by Kerry’s Jimmy Deenihan during the 1979 All-Ireland SFC final at Croke Park

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."

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