Monday 21 October 2019

Mourners hear tributes to dad who drowned saving son

Tragic father James O’Reilly, who was hailed a hero
Tragic father James O’Reilly, who was hailed a hero

Fergus Black

A BRAVE father who drowned while rescuing his son and two other youths when they got into difficulties while swimming has been hailed a hero.

Hundreds of mourners heard tributes to sports-loving James 'Jembo' O'Reilly as they gathered for his funeral service.

Mr O'Reilly (38), from Navan Road, Dublin, was with his 14-year-old son Karl and 16 members of Navan Road United Football Club on a weekend trip to Courtown, Co Wexford, when tragedy struck.

The popular coach, who managed the club's under-15 boys, dived into the water when strong currents started to sweep one of the three teenagers out to sea. But he himself got into difficulty and drowned.

Yesterday, many of Karl's schoolfriends wearing Navan Road United jerseys crowded into St Michan's Church in Halston Street, Dublin, where they joined Mr O'Reilly's partner Caroline, his parents James and Una and his brothers and sisters for his funeral Mass.

Symbols of Mr O'Reilly's love of sport – a football, golf club and a Navan Road jersey – along with framed photos and floral tributes spelling "Son" and "Dad" were left at the altar.

Parish priest Fr Bryan Shortall referred to an excerpt from the Gospels that a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for a friend.

"When you hear of someone who gave their life to save a friend, that is high up the list," he told the congregation.

"Jembo O'Reilly was a selfless person. He was at others' service and he died doing that service for others. That is a wonderful legacy."

Friend and colleague Paul Ryan remembered Mr O'Reilly as "the joker of the pack" and spoke with pride and emotion as he paid tribute to him.

He also thanked lifeguard Kevin Connolly in Courtown, and all the emergency services.

Mr Ryan fondly told the mourners that his friend's father had joked that "his wallet will be a bit heavier now that he won't be getting any more tips from James".

He said Mr O'Reilly "was not only a dad to Karl, but also a best friend and now a hero".

The Liverpool FC anthem, 'You'll Never Walk Alone', was played as Mr O'Reilly's coffin was carried from the church for burial in Glasnevin.

Irish Independent

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