Killarney's little angel bids farewell
"She had the whole community behind her and they kept her going," said heartbroken dad Brendan O'Connor as tributes were paid to his daughter Amy who lost her battle with cancer at the weekend.
The 11-year-old Killarney girl underwent intensive treatment at the Children's Hospital in Crumlin and she captured the hearts of a nation when Dr Crokes' captain Johnny Buckley asked her to help him lift the Andy Merrigan Cup on the steps of the Hogan Stand last March.
"Sport and the Crokes were her life really and they meant everything to her. She was amazing, she really was and we want to thank everyone for their support over the past few years," Brendan added.
Amy's association with Crokes was an inspiration to the players in their quest for that coveted All-Ireland title and her parents and brother Cian are heartbroken as they have been by Amy's side throughout her illness.
Dr Crokes Club Chairman Patrick O'Sullivan told The Kerryman the club is absolutely devastated and that Amy was an inspiration to everyone involved with the club.
"She had a tough few years but she always showed her best side and always wore a smile. Before last year's All-Ireland final she would visit the team and I believe that her courage really influenced the players," said Patrick.
He added that even though Amy was very young, she knew and left an impression on everyone she met.
"She'll be missed and all throughout her illness she spent as much time as possible around the club grounds. On behalf of everyone at Dr Crokes, I extend my sympathies to her family. Her dad and brother are a major part of our club and over the next few days we'll do everything we can for the family," he added.
Crokes star Johnny Buckley said he could not overemphasise enough the effect Amy had on the team in 2017 and how her encouraging messages and visits to training let them they know they were playing more than just a match.
"We knew the effort it was going to take for Amy to be in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day and when we heard she was in the Hogan Stand, it lifted the whole dressing room," said Johnny.
"We've all remarked since then that Amy being there to lift the cup was the highlight of the day. On a personal level I have, and always will, find Amy inspirational. Her smile was infectious, her positivity was astonishing, and her bubbly personality shone through every time we met. She was an amazing little girl and it was my privilege to have known her. She will be sadly missed by us all," he added.
Just days after that memorable Croke Park occasion, Amy's dad Brendan told The Kerryman how much Amy ‘loved the Crokes ‘since she was four-years-old’ and that all she ever wanted to do was play with Crokes when she was older.
Dad Brendan said of that day: 'It was so emotional and it made her so happy and it was just an incredible gesture by the Crokes. It was such a passionate speech by Johnny and he meant every word of it. We were in the stand and I was just so emotional, but I never saw Amy move as fast as she did down those steps, she couldn't wait to get there. We'll never forget it.'