Kerry unites in grief for tragic Aodhán

Heartbroken father of Aodhán O'Connor says family is in awe at the support it has received

The Late Aodhán O’Connor
The Late Aodhán O’Connor
Aodhan playing for Camp Juniors
The late Aodhan O'Connor

Tadhg Evans

The father of West Kerry teen Aodhán O'Connor has described his son as "a brilliant kid" and a typical sports-mad 14-year-old, loved and adored by his family.

From Cliddaun, just a few miles west of Dingle, Aodhán passed away at the weekend having sustained a freak head injury while playing for Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne in a Russell Cup schools Gaelic football game in Dingle last Wednesday. His Principal, Pádraig Feirtéir, told The Kerryman that the third-year student was injured in an accidental clash while contesting an aerial ball in the match against St Brendan's College, Killarney.

Aodhán was taken for medical treatment in Dingle and was subsequently brought to University Hospital Kerry [UHK]. He was later transferred to Cork University Hospital [CUH] but sadly passed away on Saturday night."He was a typical 14-year-old; we all adored him, we all loved him - he was great," his father, John, told The Kerryman. "He was very pleasant, very good, kind, caring...he was a brilliant kid. There was no malice in him whatsoever."

A family friend said that a number of people have benefited from organ donation by Aodhán, a source of pride for his family at the most difficult time of their lives.

A talented young sportsman, Aodhán played Gaelic football for Dingle GAA and Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne and soccer for Camp Juniors Football Club. Mr O'Connor was quick to acknowledge the role these teams played in his son's young life.

"He loved his football, loved his soccer, and when he was doing something, he loved to do it well. He was mad into Man United. He liked doing a few different things; whatever took his fancy, he'd go for it.

"This year, he was going for the Kerry under-15s soccer team in the League of Ireland. They were bringing the squad down to 20 and last week he was chosen as one of the 20 - his official signing was only last Monday night.

"Last Saturday, Camp Juniors played Douglas Hall [in the National Cup], who are a top premiership side in Cork. Douglas Hall were the hot favourites but Camp Juniors beat them 3-2 after extra-time. They all had a fantastic game, including Aodhán. He always enjoyed the craic he had with them".

The grieving father added that his family, who are well known for running the Kool Scoops ice-cream parlour in Dingle, have been overwhelmed at the support they have received locally and from further afield in recent days.

"All the people of west Kerry, all the people of Kerry, there's calls coming from all over. All the people that I would've known and have gotten to know have been absolutely fantastic to us as a family. The school, Principal Pádraig Feirtéir, and the other teachers have given us their support all the way through this difficult time.

"The lads in charge of the Camp team - I can't thank them enough. All the local sports teams have been onto us... but it's not just the clubs, the people of the area have been so good to us.

"I must thank the nurses in CUH and UHK; they're the front-line people, they're Trojan workers. I have often sat back to take my mind off what's happening and just watched them and admired them for the work they're doing. They'd go to the top of Everest and back if it would do any good for you. My words are not strong enough, and I don't think they get enough credit."

Mr O'Connor extended his gratitude to all medical professionals - such as doctors and ambulance crew members - who assisted Aodhán throughout the tragedy. He also thanked neighbours, friends, and members of the Dingle Coastguard - for whom he is a volunteer - for helping ease the pressure on the family in recent days. He also acknowledged Aodhán's team-mates, who he said are "shouldering this in their own way".

The 14-year-old had just completed his Mock exams and was due to take on his Junior Cert this summer. Principal Feirtéir said the Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne community is hugely upset and deeply saddened at the loss of Aodhán.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends," Mr Feirtéir said. "The school is providing support for our students and staff during this difficult time.

"Aodhán was a great lad. He was a gentle, soft-spoken, level-headed boy. He was an excellent student and sportsman. Soccer was his passion. He was dedicated to his football and determined on the field of play, he never gave up."

His home GAA club in Dingle were among a great number of teams from west Kerry and further afield to pay tribute to the young man, while Kerry County Committee Chairperson Tim Murphy said "words cannot express adequately the emotions felt by the Kerry GAA community on hearing this tragic news".

Camp Juniors FC poignantly pointed out that tragedy had struck just days after Aodhán had given a stellar performance in an historic under-15s National Cup win, and described him as "a wonderful young man".

"Where Aodhán really shone was his generosity of spirit, his positive nature, his honesty in everything he did and his commitment to his club, his team, his friends," the club continued, before sharing a series of pictures of Aodhán online. Amongst others to pay tribute in recent days included Kerry GAA legend Tomás Ó Sé and Dublin footballer Paul Flynn.

Aodhán O'Connor is sadly missed by parents Áine and John; sister Ciara; grandfather Jack; aunts Siobhán, Rose and Caitríona; uncles Joe, Brendan, Martin, Seán, Brian, Kieran, and Paudie; relatives; teachers; and school-friends.

He reposed at his home in Cliddaun yesterday, with funeral Mass taking place today at St Mary's Church, Dingle, at 2pm. This will be followed by interment in St Brendan's Cemetery, Dingle.

John O'Connor said donations, if desired, can be made to Brú Columbanus, Cork, which provides free accommodation for relatives of seriously ill patients of Cork Hospitals and Hospice.