Farewell to Philly who 'died doing something that he loved'
GAA turns out in force to pay final respects to comrade
FROM its highest ranking official to the youngest members of the local club, the GAA faithful gathered yesterday to honour a fallen comrade who "lived for football".
Leitrim star Philly McGuinness died doing what he loved, after suffering a blow to the head on the football field last weekend from which he never recovered.
Yesterday the small town of Mohill came to a standstill. Upwards of 1,500 mourners, led by his grieving mother Phil and older brothers John and Michael, laid a beloved son and brother to rest.
As a boy, Philly routinely interrupted the sound of birdsong with the crash of a football against the gable wall of his home at Shannagh, across the road from St Patrick's Church.
The road outside became the first pitch where he honed the skills that eventually earned him the Number 10 jersey in the Leitrim senior team.
At his funeral, the green and gold jersey was draped over his coffin, alongside the green and white of Mohill. And birdsong was the only sound that broke the mournful silence in the thronged churchyard.
The 26-year-old engineer died following a devastating head injury incurred in what appeared to be a minor collision with a rival player during a club match on Saturday evening.
Parish Priest Father Bernard Hogan told mourners that he had set out from home that evening with high spirits and joy in his heart, with no thought of anything other than doing something he loved most in life.
"His journey ended in tragedy and the loss of his young life.
"Little did he realise as he packed his football boots that it would be the last time he would do so. Philly lived for football, he lived for hurling, he lived for sports," Fr Hogan said.
The young player never saw danger and gave his all to both football and hurling.
"And so it was on that fateful day in Annaghduff that his young life came to an end. Philly knew it was a contact sport but he wouldn't have wanted it any other way," Fr Hogan said.
The priest added that everyone had their own memories of the talented player -- his dashing flair, his darting runs, his undying spirit as he fought tooth-and-nail for club and county.
He prompted laughter from the congregation when he told how Philly drove his tractor with the same abandon as he played hurling and football, flying along the road, his distinctive red hair flying behind him.
Club team mate Ciaran Kennedy read 'A Prayer for All Footballers', which concluded with the words: "May the great referee who calls my name; Say you played like a man, you played the game."
Footballers from across the county lined the street as a lone piper from the Kilturnbrid Pipe Band played 'Amazing Grace' and led the cortege towards the cemetery where he was laid next to his late father, Michael.
In a moving graveside oration, Mohill coach Matt Gaffey described Philly McGuinness as the outstanding player for Leitrim for the past two years.
"He was a born footballer, a natural from the word go, and he hadn't even reached his prime. He had years of football left in him before he was whipped away from us," Mr Gaffey said.
He said the highlight of Philly's career had been to play alongside his brothers when Mohill won the club championship in 2006.
Philly was a gracious, courteous young man who had time for everyone and was a born leader, Mr Gaffey added.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen was represented at the funeral by Commandant Michael Treacy.
Among the mourners from the GAA were its president, Christy Cooney, Ard Stiurthoir Padraig Duffy and Dessie Farrell from the Gaelic Players' Association.
District Court Judge Kevin Kilrane, who is the Mohill Club chairman, also attended.