Tuesday 16 October 2018

Former Wexford captain Michael is laid to rest

A GREAT sportsman and a mighty contributor to the betterment of his home town was laid to rest in the rain on Monday as Enniscorthy turned out in large numbers to mourn the passing of Michael Collins.

The captain of the Leinster hurling championship winning side of 1970 was accompanied on his final journey by some of his county team mates from that era. Guards of honour were also provided by the Rapparees/Starlights and by the town's fire brigade, of which he was a stalwart for two decades, in full uniform.

An indestructible full back in his day, successor to the mighty Nick O'Donnell, he was finally laid low at the age of 68 by a short and unstoppable illness. Eight weeks after he first complained that something was wrong, and five weeks after his condition was diagnosed, he died at home in Moran Park, surrounded by the family who were the number one concern and love of his life.

St. Aidan's cathedral, where Michael received in turn the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and marriage, was full at mid-day on Monday for an altogether sadder occasion. Funeral Mass was conducted by curate Father Richard Lawless, assisted by Father Pat Sinnott. The chief celebrant led the expressions of sympathy to the deceased man's grieving wife Callie, their children Mairead, Maria and Michael, and the rest of the Collins family.

The dead man was born in 1940, one a large family raised by William and Mary Collins. He married Catherine 'Callie' Rigley in 1966. He spent his working life at St. John's Hospital and was a long time volunteer with the fire brigade. However, it was as a hurler with club and county that he made his impact on the consciousness of the wider public.

As Father Lawless pointed out, Michael Collins did not walk away from the sporting arena when his playing days were over. He continued to contribute to the G.A.A. as a pillar of the club at Bellefield in many practical ways. He was as dependable in that capacity as he had been under the high ball dropped into the square. A hurl and a sliothar were among the gifts brought up to the altar – along with a model tractor. The toy was a reminder of the way in which he tended the grounds at Bellefield for so many years. The irony of the situation where Michael was being buried as fresh shoots of grass spring up on the newly laid pitch up the road from the cathedral was not lost on the congregation of mourners.

Nephew Johnny Mythen read out the hurler's prayer in the church and told the departing player: 'you played the game'. Father Lawless passed on the thanks of the Collins family to the staff at Wexford General Hospital and to the hospice nurses who tended to the deceased with respect and compassion during his final illness. Prayers were said for the health of Michael's brother Billy and of another former G.A.A. club chairman, Donal Minnock.

Music was performed in St. Aidan's by Stephen Murphy. Interment after Mass was in St. Mary's cemetery, with hundreds of people under hundreds of umbrellas following the hearse from cathedral to burial ground through sheets of torrential rain. Afterwards, the career and utterly reliable character of Michael Collins were the main subjects of conversation as mourners gathered in the Bellefield G.A.A. complex for refreshments.

The deceased is mourned by his wife Callie, their children Mairead, Maria and Michael, his three surviving grandchildren (he was pre-deceased by young Kate), his sisters Kathleen, Tish, Nellie and Josie; his brothers Paddy, Billy, Martin and Ger; other family members, former team mates and friends beyond number.