Thursday 19 April 2018

'We'll meet you on the other side Dermot' - a tribute to a hurling man

Offaly U-21 hurling manager, whose kindness and innate sense of selfless giving stretched far beyond the GAA community, writes Eugene Hogan

CALLING: Dermot Hogan took over as Offaly U-21 manager earlier this year. Photo: Matt Browne
CALLING: Dermot Hogan took over as Offaly U-21 manager earlier this year. Photo: Matt Browne

Eugene Hogan

Just one week short of his 46th birthday, Dermot Hogan fell to his sudden and untimely death through a 'clear-light' on the roof of a shed at his farm at The Heath, Coolderry, Co Offaly.

After spending the previous 30 minutes or so painting the shed roof, Dermot met his death more or less on impact. But as he crashed down, his beloved wife Marie; the couple's three children, Lisa (24), Rachel (20) and Ciara (15); his parents Kieran and Margaret; brothers Kevin and I; relatives and countless friends fell with him, on to the most outrageous sword that has pierced our hearts so deeply.

Though not born directly into farming, the Hogan family holding in Coolderry was where his father originated from. For Dermot it had something of a magnetic pull, even from his earliest years as he grew up in Ballywilliam, Nenagh, a close-knit community in the heart of Tipperary where his father and mother moved to in the early 1970s with their three young sons.

Dermot's calling to the beautifully manicured Co Offaly farming heartland saw him move there in the early 1990s to take over the homestead on the invitation of his aunt Essie and uncle Martin (RIP), who were married there without children and who Dermot looked after over the next two decades as he lived out the remainder of his young life in perfect harmony with the land and community.

His genetic predisposition to the land dovetailed perfectly with another of his great passions - his work in the meat processing industry. He began that life-long career in 1987 when he went to work in the boning hall at the now ABP plant at Grange, Nenagh, pretty much straight from school.

His flair for the business was quickly recognised as he graduated to the post of quality controller by the age of 20. He later worked in Watergrasshill plant outside Cork, where he and his young wife Marie began married life. A stint followed in Roscrea and Carlow before returning to ABP Nenagh, where he was a hugely valued member of the team in his role as production manager.

His funeral last weekend was an incredible outpouring of grief and remembrance. What came across in overflowing tributes from countless friends was his sense of giving. His wife Marie and three children were the immediate beneficiaries and priority for his attention but, in addition to his career, there was also an insatiable desire for community activity that manifested strongest through his love of the GAA.

He won underage titles with his club Burgess back in Tipperary, moulded as a teak-tough corner-back by his two idols growing up - his father Kieran and five-time All-Ireland medal winner and Tipp legend Donie Nealon.

His move to Coolderry would, however, see his passion for the game quickly evolve into coaching as he led the club's U-16s, minors, U-21s and Junior Bs to county titles before making his inter-county bow last year as a selector with the Offaly minors. This year he took over the post of manager of the county's U-21 side. It was a job that, apparently, no one else wanted but one this most faithful of souls took on with great pride.

There was something of a microcosm of Dermot in that U-21 appointment; fearlessly taking on a seemingly insurmountable challenge and, in defeat (to Wexford), the glass was still half-full and the plans were being made for 2015.

Dermot was the epitome of what's absolutely best in rural Ireland. He had an innate sense of selfless giving that stretched beyond the GAA, from helping neighbours in times of need to local organisations with their events and fundraising. He even managed to save many young men from emigration as he secured employment for scores of them at ABP Nenagh.

All that giving was repaid in great kind on Dermot in death last weekend and in sympathy to his family as neighbours in Coolderry wrapped us in the warmest blanket of support at this most difficult of times.

Unasked, they swept into action within hours of his death, arranging everything from a marquee to teas and sandwiches and even parking attendants for the seven-hour procession of thousands of mourners who made their way to say goodbye to this remarkable young man on Saturday and Sunday. It became a celebration of the greatness of a good countryman and the greatness of the very good country he lived in.

At his funeral Mass on Sunday afternoon, we were left with a fitting, final description of Dermot by the bravest of fathers imaginable. Dad, in his eulogy, recalled how Dermot always did what he asked of him, save for one exception. That was Thursday night week last when, as paramedics worked tirelessly to save his departing soul, he implored his son: "Get up Dermot, get up." For once, Dermot could not give.

We'll meet you on the other side, Dermot!

Sunday Independent

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