Loving Wexford dad Andy O’Reilly brought out the best in people and made them feel blessed

The late Andy O'Reilly.

Simon BourkeWexford People

Just two days before he and his wife Amanda were due to fly out to Mexico for potentially lifesaving treatment, Andy O’Reilly has lost his brave battle with cancer.

The 42-year-old father of three and grandfather to ten-month-old Kayla passed away on Friday last having been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in March of last year.

Chemotherapy and an operation to remove a tumour followed and, for a brief few months, Andy and his family dared to believe he had overcome his illness. However, in March of this year, they were informed the cancer had spread and that his condition was beyond treating in an Irish hospital. Thus began a fundraising drive to get Andy to Mexico for pioneering treatment in a clinic which charged approximately €55,000 for a three-week stint.

With his condition worsening, the fundraiser edged near the €60,000 mark, allowing the family to book flights to the Central American country. Tragically, Andy never got to take that flight, his final journey coming at his home in Courtclough Upper near the Ballagh last Friday. Originally from Dublin, Andy and Amanda had moved to Wexford over 20 years ago and made a home for themselves here, with Andy becoming manager of Dunnes Stores in Enniscorthy.

And many of his friends from Wexford were present at his funeral service in St. Patrick’s Church, Corduff, Co Dublin on Tuesday morning. In keeping with Andy’s wishes, mourners were decked out in the colours of his beloved Manchester United, with cross-channel loyalties put to one side for the occasion. In front of a sea of red, white and black, his sister Maria spoke about the impact her brother had on those he met.

“Where do I begin when it comes to talking about Andy?” she asked. “His life was a never-ending story of laughter and funny stories, whenever you were in his company you smiled because you knew you were going to have a good time.”

Noting how her brother would always be the first one out on the dance-floor wherever music was being played, Maria recalled how Andy’s arrival on a holiday transformed the experience for all.

“We were in holidays in Lanzarote, 30 of us, and Andy appeared five days into the holiday. He sang and rapped to songs he didn’t know in karaoke bars, brought kids to raves, went to the funfair, pool parties, games, there was never a quiet moment. It was only when he went home and everything went quiet that the rest of us realised how boring we were, and there were 30 of us. But that was Andy, he brought out the child in you, the best in you,” she said.

Upon getting his first job working behind a bar at the age of 16, Maria said her brother imagined himself as Tom Cruise in the movie Cocktail. It was while working in that bar that Andy met the love of his life.

On This Day In History - 18th May

“One night 24 years ago he met a 17-year-old girl called Amanda, he fell in love with her and he still does,” Maria said. “I hope you know how much he loved you Amanda, you were entirely different people but it worked for you, from the very beginning of his illness you were there for him, he said the cancer could take everything away from him but his smile, which he would keep for you.”

Describing Andy’s children, Maria said Craig was very much like his dad and brought great joy to the whole family when he became a father himself.

“Ian was like his dad in some of the less responsible ways, he enjoys a party, when Ian smiled Andy smiled too,” Maria continued. “Kyle always knew how to wrap his dad round his finger, Andy called you Sheldon because of how smart you are.”

In addition to their own children, Andy and Amanda were also foster parents and had played an integral part in the lives of many young people in this role, with Andy “always treating them like they were his own and making sure every child in his presence was looked after”.

Holding out hope until the very end, Maria said the trip to Mexico just wasn’t to be in the finish.

“We tried everything to help him get better but unfortunately it was not to be. We had planned to go to Mexico just two days after he passed, we’re still going to go, that was one of his dying wishes, his body won’t get there but his soul will. He was my hero, my best friend, my everything, we spoke every day, our lives were an organised chaos, but organised nonetheless. He was creating lists for today in advance and wanted everyone to have a ball, he didn’t want anyone to be sad, but to have fun, including all the Liverpool fans who are wearing United jerseys in his honour.

“His strength throughout the illness was astonishing, he fought it with everything he had, he was such a kind, caring person that you asked yourself ‘why him’? But he said it would be better to happen to him that anyone else. That’s the type of person he was. If Andy was in your life you knew you were blessed to have known him.”