Funeral of Irish student Andrew O’Donnell, who died in Greece, told he could ‘brighten the darkest of days’

Andrew O’Donnell just completed his Leaving Cert at St Michael’s College and died while on holiday in Ios

One of the two Irish teenagers who died on a recent post-Leaving Cert holiday to Greece, Andrew O’Donnell, was remembered as someone who had “a kind heart” at his funeral Mass.

Andrew (18) had a sense of humour that could “brighten the darkest of days”, Monsignor Ciarán O’Carroll told the congregation on Wednesday. “His untimely passing has left all of us shocked and saddened.”

Friends of Andrew brought up symbols from his life to the altar: football jerseys and sporting medals, a Kanye West vinyl record, his St Michael’s College graduation cap and a dog lead to symbolise his love for his two golden retrievers, Marnie and Maisie.

The Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, south Dublin, was full for the service. Andrew’s beloved dogs were walked into the church when the coffin was carried in.


Fr Paddy Moran, chaplain at St Michael’s College, said a simple fall had led to a “promising future” being “cruelly taken” from Andrew. “We are here for the saddest of reasons, to say goodbye to a beloved son, a beloved older brother,” he told mourners.

Andrew and his classmate at St Michael’s College, Max Wall, had just completed his Leaving Cert at the Ballsbridge secondary school and died in separate incidents while in Ios, Greece at the start of this month. They were part of a group of more than 80 students from the school who travelled to the island for a summer holiday following their exams.

Members of the sixth year class of St Michael’s College and other friends filtered into the church on Wednesday for the second time this week, following the funeral Mass of Max on Monday.

Andrew, who had a huge passion for sport and was a Liverpool FC and Irish rugby fan, was someone whose face “lit up” when talking about his dogs, Fr Moran said.

The young man was an “absolute gem of a human being,” he said. “Everywhere you went was made better by your presence.”

He noted Andrew had applied to study in several universities in the UK in the coming college year.

Messages from St Michael’s College students read out during the service described Andrew as a “true gentleman”, while another student said he “never had a bad word to say about anybody”.

Speaking at the Mass, his mother Bebhinn described Andrew as “the most beautiful, funny, mischievous” boy.

She recalled worrying about her son studying for the Leaving Cert, making cheese toasties with him, and morning trips to school in the car where they would listen to his favourite rap music.

“You had so much love to give and you gave it in buckets,” she said.

She read out a letter to her son, ending with the words, “Sleep well, we love you, we miss you. But we will see you again one day. Goodnight, my beautiful boy, we are truly heartbroken. Lots of love, Mum”.

His father Gavin said he “couldn’t be prouder” of the man his son had become.

“Andrew will remain forever young in our hearts, he will never be forgotten and his memory will always be cherished. Goodbye Andrew, my beautiful boy,” he said.

Andrew is believed to have fallen on a rocky hill on the outskirts of the island’s main town of Hora after he became separated from a friend while walking home after a night out. His body was discovered the following day.

Hours after his body was discovered around a day later, Max collapsed near the island’s port while on the phone to his father and was later pronounced dead.

Initial postmortems conducted by Greek authorities indicated that Andrew died from head injuries related to his fall and that Max’s death was linked to a heart problem.

Following the funeral, members from Andrew’s local sports clubs, Belmont Football Club and Old Belvedere Rugby Club, came out to stand along Ailesbury Road in their jerseys, as the funeral procession passed.

A large group from St Michael’s College, many holding yellow roses, walked behind the hearse as it traveled down to the school, bringing Andrew through the grounds one last time. One last time, for his friends to say goodbye.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times