Tuesday 16 July 2019

'Whether on the pitch or in life, Aodhan was a leader' - Young Derry hurler O'Donnell laid to rest

Aodhán O'Donnell in action for Derry. Pic: Gerry O'Donnell
Aodhán O'Donnell in action for Derry. Pic: Gerry O'Donnell

Gillian Halliday

Mourners at the funeral of Derry GAA player Aodhan O'Donnell heard yesterday how the popular young man was a "gifted sportsman" who had led a "remarkable" life.

Mr O'Donnell (19) was found dead in the River Foyle last Friday after a widescale search was launched days earlier.

Family and friends had frantically searched for the talented inter-county hurler and also held vigils at the riverside.

Mr O'Donnell, who would have celebrated his 20th birthday last week, is survived by his parents Gerry and Moira, siblings Sean and Ciara, and girlfriend Dervla.

Requiem Mass was held in St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry yesterday morning and was attended by hundreds of people.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Mr O'Donnell's hurling team-mates stood for a minute's silence during the All-Ireland Under-21 B Hurling Championship quarter-final against Mayo as a tribute.

Mr O'Donnell, who also played for Na Magha CLG, had been due to turn out in the game in Carrick-on-Shannon, which went ahead at the O'Donnell family's request.

Derry won the game 3-15 to 0-18.

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During the homily, which was delivered by Fr Christopher Ferguson, mourners heard that Mr O'Donnell had lived a "remarkable life", one that had left behind a "legacy of untiring friendship and love" amid the deep loss.

"For Aodhan's family and friends, his girlfriend Dervla, no amount of words or gestures will bring Aodhan back," Fr Ferguson said.

"The enormity of the pain reminds everyone here how much Aodhan was loved and cherished."

The priest said that Mr O'Donnell possessed many qualities that made him likeable to many people.

He was also someone who had "touched so many hearts" in his short life.

"Aodhan was always at the centre of everything.

"His easy-going confidence meant he could carry himself lightly, allowing him to endear himself to so many people. He was always up for a laugh," Fr Ferguson said.

Passionate about sports from a very young age, Mr O'Donnell became interesting in hurling as a child when he was just four - an interest he nurtured throughout his years.

The priest said that hurling was a sport that Aodhan excelled at.

He also took "great pride" in representing at both club and county level.

"He played with grace and skill.

"However, more importantly, Aodhan led by example.

"He would never had given up, always displayed great heart and determination," explained Fr Ferguson.

"Whether on the pitch or in life, Aodhan was a leader, someone who was loved and looked up too."

Following the service interment took place in Derry City Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the O'Donnell family have asked for donations to be made instead to Foyle Search and Rescue.

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