A STUDENT whose body was recovered from the sea after 11 days was hailed a hero for sacrificing his life "for true love".
In a message read out at the Requiem Mass for Barry Davis Ryan (20), on behalf of his mother, Ann, he was described as a hero just like his father, Barry Snr (51).
Both men drowned on June 30 off Baltimore, west Cork, after diving into the sea in a desperate but doomed bid to save Barry Jnr's girlfriend, Niamh O'Connor (20).
The pair are the son and grandson of Penney's founder Arthur Ryan (80).
Ms O'Connor, a University College Cork (UCC) student, was swept into the sea by a freak wave as the three took an evening stroll.
The bodies of Mr Ryan Snr and Ms O'Connor were recovered within minutes of the tragedy by Baltimore RNLI.
However, the body of Barry Jnr was only found 11 days later after the biggest dive recovery operation ever mounted in Ireland.
Danny Kelly, on behalf of Ann Davis, read a special tribute at the Sacred Heart Church in Rath, outside Baltimore, in which his nephew was hailed a hero for sacrificing himself in a bid to save his girlfriend.
"He loved his soul mate, the beautiful Niamh O'Connor, with all his heart. And he selflessly died trying to save her," he said.
"Barry, just like his father, was a hero who, without hesitation, was willing to die for love.
'Barry found his true love when he met Niamh. They are now together for ever."
Mourners were told that the aftermath of the tragedy was marked by an inspiring example of Irish community spirit.
"Sometimes great good can come from bad. In a time of much apparent negativity, Barry in death was the key to not only bringing this mighty west Cork community so closely together but he also galvanised an entire country and nation, such was the collective effort made to bring his body home," said Mr Kelly.
"Of the many interesting things Barry did in his life, three stand out. He loved his mother, Ann, his elder brother, Arthur, and his little sister, Charlotte. He loved his dad and family."
Charlotte read out a poem entitled My Little Wizard Chap which was written by her father for Barry when he was five.
The Ryan and Davis families offered heartfelt thanks to the 100-plus divers who conducted the massive search of Baltimore harbour for Barry Jnr's body.
Special tribute was paid to West Cork Underwater Rescue official John Kearney, to whom both families said they owed an enormous debt of gratitude.
The families said they "will never forget the honest and welcome look on John Kearney's face when Barry's body was finally returned to us".
At Niamh O'Connor's Requiem Mass, her father, Paul, said his daughter was "a stunner" who had found "the love of her life" in Barry Jnr.