Mourning Manus Kelly: 'I don't think he realised how he touched people's hearts'
Outside the church, a special Donegal International Rally ramp had been erected, and with heartbreaking symbolism, Manus Kelly crossed it for the final time.
His beloved Subaru racing car in which the 41-year-old had won the event three times in a row had been bedecked with two laurel wreaths.
It was driven to the church with his son, Charlie - too young to see out of the windscreen - riding in the passenger seat, the engine revving up steadily. Tears streamed down the faces of young and old at the sound of it, knowing they will never again stand on the sidelines to cheer on the 'Glensman' with the broad cheeky smile.
The father of five was both a "legend" and also "a big kid", as mourners at his funeral heard.
Thousands had turned out to stand in the sun-drenched grounds of St Columba's church in Glenswilly, Co Donegal, the beautiful place that Manus called home.
There were more watching the proceedings on a big screen at the cemetery some distance away.
And still more again in Letterkenny, where rally drivers from motor clubs as far away as West Cork and Wexford gathered.
Chief mourners were his wife Bernie and their five children, Annie, Mandy, Charlie, Conan and baby Bella, as well as his parents Donal and Jacqueline, brothers and sisters.
The Taoiseach was represented by his ADC, Commandant Caroline Burke.
Micheál Martin, Fianna Fáil leader, was present, along with local FF Deputy Charlie McConalogue and Joe McHugh of Fine Gael.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Martin described Mr Kelly's death as a devastating blow to his family, the local community and to his own party.
"It's the loss of a chieftain in many ways. You get that sense today," he said.
Newly elected to Donegal County Council for the party, Mr Kelly had proudly worn his council tie for the past month.
It was among the gifts taken to the altar to remember his life, together with a family photo, the Jim Kennedy Memorial Trophy, his racing helmet, a Glenswilly GAA jersey and a Donegal flag.
A guard of honour was formed by members of Donegal council. There were also many competitors from the international rally in which Mr Kelly lost his life on Sunday.
Chief celebrant Fr Paddy Dunne said he had been struck by how car engines had been turned off in Letterkenny town and the community had fallen silent to welcome Manus home.
"His death has been a dreadful shock to all of us," he said.
Manus was someone who had never sat still for a minute, said Fr Dunne.
"He did a lot for a boy of 41; he lived some life. He didn't sit a minute.
"I don't think he realised how he touched people's hearts."
He quipped that if Manus had seen the numbers who turned at his wake he would have said: "There's some votes there, boy."
"When he went in somewhere he went in smiling, but he didn't take it with him. He left that smile in people's hearts," he added.
At Conwal Cemetery, hordes stood as Manus's Subaru led the way for his final journey.