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WRITER and sports journalist Con Houlihan will be cremated in Dublin today after a funeral mass.

WRITER and sports journalist Con Houlihan will be cremated in Dublin today after a funeral mass.

WRITER and sports journalist Con Houlihan will be cremated in Dublin today after a funeral mass.

• The death of Con Houlihan, the Colossus of Castle Island, leaves a huge gap in Irish journalism. His purple prose illuminated all aspects of sport -- his breath of knowledge and insight forensic in its detail, yet eloquent in its delivery.

He made no secret of his devotion to St Patrick's Athletic Football Club -- he considered it a true family club, representing the community of Inchicore.

From the 1970s onwards, this mountain of a man could frequently be seen on the banks of the Camac. He highlighted how the Black Pearl of Inchicore, Paul McGrath, "first unveiled his genius" in a senior game.

But Con's affiliation with Pat's was not just with the players on the pitch -- he also identified with the Inchicore faithful who followed the Saints "through thin and thinner" (particularly where the FAI Cup is concerned -- our last victory was in 1961!).

As Con himself said, he felt privileged to "drink with them and exchange songs with them and lament with them and rejoice with them".

Many years ago, I attended a particularly memorable Leinster Cup Final at Tolka Park between St Pat's and Drogheda United (I think it was 1982-83).

St Pat's won a pulsating match 3-2 and as I gazed around the ground, I spied Con deep in conversation with Luke Kelly, poets of word and song united, celebrating all that is best about League of Ireland football. Less than a year later, Luke would be dead and of all the tributes that appeared, the one that struck a chord with me was Con's eulogy -- 'The Song of a Bird Alone', where he stated: "Luke's ambition was to express 'the song of his loneliness'.

"He succeeded as much as a mortal can -- and in doing so he became an immortal." Here in Inchicore, we should be thinking of a suitable tribute for this very special man but, as always, Con has already been the catcher of the wry (his phrase not mine).

A number of years ago and not for the first time in its history, St Pat's were balancing on the precipice of poverty and there were fears that this proud club could go out of business.

Writing in 'Magill', Con recounted what he had read inscribed on the back of a toilet door in Inchicore: "Con Houlihan says that Pat's will never die." God bless you Con, we'll never see (or read) your likes again.

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Mark Lawler
Kilmainham D8


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