Wednesday 26 June 2019

Kilkenny mourns loss of 'Mr Nowlan Park'

O'Neill took huge pride in a stadium which won the Pitch of the Year Award earlier this season. Stock photo: Sportsfile
O'Neill took huge pride in a stadium which won the Pitch of the Year Award earlier this season. Stock photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Mick O'Neill didn't make the headlines and wasn't as famous as the many players who benefited from his work in Nowlan Park, but his contribution to Kilkenny is assured of a permanent place in the memory of a GAA community who will pay their respects at his funeral today after Requiem Mass in St John's Church (10.30am).

He will be fondly remembered too by local and national media, whom he treated so courteously during his four decades as a volunteer working in Nowlan Park. Indeed, he was very much the face of the venue, which he regarded as a second home.

Whether in the hours before a game as the crowds began to gather or long afterwards when only journalists remained, Mick was always patient and welcoming. But then he took huge pride in a stadium which won the Pitch of the Year Award earlier this season.

His dedication to making Nowlan Park the best it possibly could be extended far beyond match days although it was on those occasions that his natural warmth and friendliness offered a very positive message about his beloved venue.

His after-match routine was always the same: attend to his various chores before dropping into the room where the press worked with a cheery invitation for 'whoever is last out' to drop him a text. Unlike many other venues, there were no time limits, but then Mick believed he was there to help, which he invariably did.

'Mr Nowlan Park' took huge pride in Kilkenny and their many achievements and was universally liked and respected around the county. Clubs will pay tribute to him today by forming a guard of honour after the funeral Mass.

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