Tributes paid to Galway hurler
Over 1,000 people attended Niall Donohue's funeral in south Galway village of Kilbeacanty
The remains of Niall Donoghue are carried by friends and team mates through Kilbeacanty today. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy/The Irish Times
Over 1,000 people attended the requiem Mass in the tiny parish church, where a guard of honour was formed as Donohue’s coffin arrived from home, draped in his club colours of saffron and royal blue.
A hurl, a white helmet and a Galway “number 5” team jersey worn by the young inter-county hurler were placed on his coffin, along with his “number 6” jersey for Kilbeacanty club and a Bible, representing his faith.
Fr Callanan told the packed congregation that he had received messages of sympathy from all over the country and as far away as Nigeria since the young man’s unexpected death shortly before his 23rd birthday last Wednesday.
This was a “sad day for the Kilbeacanty GAA team and the associated Michael Cusack’s club of younger players,” Fr Callanan said, and there were occasions in life when one had to ask “why” this happened, and on this occasion why it had happened to Niall Donohue.
There was often a sense of “betrayal by God” in addition to the sense of desolation felt, Fr Callanan said, and the psalms were “full of cries like these”.
Yet “God does not send us crosses to pin us to the ground”, rather they came to us as “a part of life”, he said.
When death was “sudden and unexpected and tragic, as in the case of Niall”, the family suffered the loss of a son and a brother who was very dear, Fr Callanan continued.
“They tell us there is no safe shortcut through bereavement”, but “the love we have for a loved one does not end in death”, he said.
Fr Callanan quoted the words of Galway hurling manager Anthony Cunningham, who had told Seán Moran of The Irish Times how Donohue was “a unique character” who “didn’t have a lot to say” but was “very witty and got on well with everyone on the team”.
“He just loved to play,”Cunningham had said. “In his hurling, he was a free spirit and loved the challenge, the battle. He had tremendous pace and in the agility tests he was far ahead of the panel, and when we measured strength, it was the same...”
“Niall led a good life, a short life, a happy life and he enjoyed his hurling,”Fr Callanan noted. “We must as a community look out for each other and look out for the signs of difficulty in a person’s life.”