Irish football bids farewell to Shelbourne supremo
THE Shelbourne FC torch was passed on to a new generation yesterday as players, officials and supporters gathered in their hundreds to say farewell to the late chief executive Ollie Byrne.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern led the tributes at Mr Byrne's funeral, remembering him as a life-long Shels supporter who put himself under tremendous pressure to resurrect the glory days of his club.
Speaking outside St Pius X Church in Terenure, Mr Ahern added: "It was always a struggle but Ollie kept at it. He was a great man and a great character and will be missed."
The Taoiseach recalled how Mr Byrne would frequently drop by his Drumcondra constituency office while on his usual early morning walks along the banks of the Tolka river.
The hot topic of conversation was always how best to develop the game. "He was huge in the League of Ireland and was passionate about his football... but (football) was never going to be big business (for him), it was always going to be stress and hassle," he added.
FAI chief executive John Delaney, who read a prayer of the faithful during the Mass, said he was a young lad when he first met Mr Byrne while attending matches in Waterford.
More than 500 mourners gathered for the funeral and were led by Mr Byrne's sisters, Carmel, Maire and Bernadette, and his brothers Andrew, Joe and Ciaran. Also in attendance were Shels chairman Joe Casey, director Shay Weafer and former FAI chief executive Bernard O'Byrne.
Fr John Galvin, a good friend of Mr Byrne's for more than 20 years, said the chief executive's passing opened a new chapter for the club. I'm quite confident that the people who are here this morning will pick up the pieces and continue where Ollie left off.
"I know the team and the staff will do their best to reinvigorate interest in the club. This is perhaps the dawn of a new life for Shelbourne FC.''
The congregation errupted into spontaneous applause as Mr Byrne's coffin, draped in the club flag, was carried by his nephew and the club's kit man, Andy Byrne, as well as former captain, Owen Heary, and former goalkeeper Steve Williams.