THEY were “beautiful” children, two big brothers who cherished their little sister, a girl who watched proudly from her buggy as her siblings played football on Saturday mornings.
ut only hours before they were due at their usual spot on the children’s pitches at Rathcoole Boys FC, the children would play together at home in Newcastle, Co Dublin, for the final time.
Conor (9), Darragh (7) and Carla (3) were found dead at home on Friday evening, their mother in a distressed state.
There was a gaping hole left at the football club this weekend, with games cancelled, families left in shock and mourning.
Andrew McGinley, who’d normally be shouting his sons on from the sidelines, was seen sobbing at the back of St Finian’s Church, Newcastle.
Mr McGinley was determined to thank the community who are supporting him through the darkness and the community cried alongside him.
Fr John Gilligan told the Irish Independent: “The children’s father Andrew came to morning Mass at 10am on Saturday.
“We were shocked he’d thought to come along but he wanted to thank the community and you could see how much he valued the community’s support.
“He was so helpless. Some of the dads were in tears. I’ve been a priest for a long time and I’ve seen some very sad losses but for a community to lose three children, it’s just unbelievable.”
A Mass was also said at 12pm where the children were remembered. The boys’ principal Siobhán Mhic Gearailt, from Scoil Chrónáin in Rathcoole, and members of the Happy Feet nursery were at the service.
Fr Gilligan said: “Families are really are struggling, the community, is struggling. I relayed the loss we all felt and made tribute to the families across our community.
“Mums and dads gathered round in the carpark after Mass, huddled round, supporting each other.
“During the Mass, I asked the children’s principal Siobhan, to say a few words. It’s so sad, she’s preparing to see the boys’ class friends, knowing the boys won’t be there.
“A child psychologist will be there in school giving support and she assured parents, the school would do their best for the children.
“I asked the community to support each other. All the girls from the Happy Feet créche were here at church to remember Carla. They were relaying stories of Carla’s mum bringing her to créche every morning and how happy the little girl was.
“But they were all in bits. The community is rallying round but there’s a huge, dark cloud over us and all we could do was be there for each other but there is no language to express such a loss.”
Though matches were cancelled yesterday at Rathcoole Boys FC, coaches still attended on Saturday to offer children games, as a means of offering comfort through a familiar activity.
Fr Gilligan said: “What do you say to the children’s friends? They’ve lost their companions. It’s hard for them to grasp. They don’t understand. Some of the children said to me, ‘They’re angels in heaven’.
“But it’s so tough. Some of the parents are trying but there’s no answers.”
One mother told how though she’d been due to go on holiday, she now felt she should cancel it, such is the loss within the community.
While even Fr Gilligan was clearly struggling with the loss so close to home. “I was chaplain in DCU for 16 years, I was chaplain at Holles Street for nine years. To lose a mother, a child, in hospital is tragic but for three children, from one family, who were so young, to be wiped out at once, it’s just devastating.”
It’s believed Mr McGinley is originally from Donegal town and the children’s mother was understood to be from Crumlin. Up until around 18 months ago they had lived in Springbank, Saggart, Co Dublin.
Mr McGinley had been on the road a great deal for work, doing his best to support his young family.
A book of condolence, full of heartfelt messages was at the church yesterday and last night there were plans to open another book at the local council offices.
As well as playing football, the two McGinley boys were understood to have also attended a drama group. The children were said to have enjoyed a packed social calendar.
Dave Hennessy, chairman of Rathcoole boys FC, said: “Conor was playing for the under 10s and he was a lovely little child, a very popular lad.
“The younger guy, Darragh was in the academy last year and he played for the under eights. The family really were always round the club.
“Little Carla was lovely, she was one of those children - she would make you smile. She’d come up in the buggy and she’d be round with her brothers.
“But matches are now cancelled and we are making counsellors available to children.
“This tragedy has had a huge effect on the community, on children, families and the coaches here.
“Anything we can do, we’ll do it for the family, for Andrew. We want him to know we’re here for him. A tragedy like this, we want to do what we can, give what we can, to help in some way.
“We’re just waiting to hear about the funeral now but that’s going to be very, very hard.”
Fr Kevin Doherty, co-parish priest at St Finian’s Church, said he can’t put into words the community’s sadness.
“The darkness is so dark and there’s an unspeakable amount of grief, heartbreak, loss,” he told RTE’s Six One.