Belfast Telegraph

Golfer Christy O'Connor Jnr 'reunited with son Darren', funeral told

Irish golfer Christy O'Connor Junior has been reunited with his son, as he was remembered at his funeral as one in a million.

About 2,000 mourners packed Galway Cathedral to hear fond memories of the sporting icon's character, generosity and lust for life.

The 67-year-old, best remembered for playing a lead role in Europe's Ryder Cup win in 1989, had been on holiday in Tenerife when he died in his sleep on January 6.

The service was led by Father Michael Kelly, a close family friend, who noted the flood of tributes when the news broke and recalled the golfer's faith, despite his son Darren's untimely death in a road accident in 1998, aged 17.

"He spoke openly and confidently of his conviction that he would meet Darren again - not quite so soon, I imagine," he said.

"He prayed to him and for him and was convinced that Darren came to his assistance more than once."

Among the items presented at the service were the Ryder Cup, marking O'Connor's triumph at The Belfry in 1989 when he hit one of the most famous shots in golfing history to help Europe retain golf's biggest prize.

Tales of the Irishman's stunning two iron to within feet of the 18th hole featured throughout the service.

Team captain Paul McGinley, who was joined by Sam Torrance, carried the gold trophy along with the European flag to a table on the altar where they sat overlooking O'Connor Jnr's coffin.

"I think it's a sad day for Ireland," McGinley said. "He was a character, much loved, and I'll miss the fun.

"He was a big part of Ryder Cup history and folklore as we know. It's nice to be able to bring it here.

"He showed me how to have fun, that's the thing I'll remember most about Christy."

Lifelong friends of O'Connor Jnr's, golfer Eamonn Darcy and former mayor of Galway John Mulholland gave personal reflections on his life ahead of the service.

"There's one thing that I can tell you - when you were in his company there was never a dull moment. There was always something happening," he said.

Darcy recalled O'Connor Jnr's success and how he used it for charity fundraising.

"That two iron it keeps coming up," he said. "I would say he auctioned that two iron at least 40 times, and it was always the original."

The funeral was described in the Mass booklet as a celebration of O'Connor Jnr's life and he was variously described as a storyteller, singer, a musician who played the spoons and the accordion, a grafter and a family man proud of his roots.

"For Christy the days were too short and the nights not long enough," Darcy said.

Darcy recalled when the pair had been in South Africa and after being invited to hold a private golf clinic by an Italian wine merchant they sampled the wares.

Mourners heard how Darcy was feeling the effects and shanked two shots off the tee, narrowly avoiding the heads of some invited guests.

Torn between laughter and tears, Darcy added: "Christy said 'I'm sure some of you have been afflicted by these shots Eamonn has just played. Now he's going to show you how to cure it."

Mr Mulholland spoke about the man behind the two iron.

"He was positive always to the point of exaggeration. He talked big but he backed it up by making it happen. He walked the walk," he said.

O'Connor Jnr is survived by his wife Ann, son Nigel and daughter Ann.

At the end of the service the children thanked those who had helped with the funeral, including their father's speedy repatriation to Ireland.

"Perhaps your greatest achievement was that you were a wonderful husband, a wonderful dad, an adored papa and a friend to all when anyone needed you," Ann said.

Among other well know figures at the funeral were Irish President Michael D Higgins, businessman Denis O'Brien, racehorse trainer Mouse Morris, golfer Des Smyth and former rugby international Keith Wood.

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen spoke to O'Connor Jnr in the days before his death.

"I think a lot of people throughout the country recognise the ambassadorial role he played for the country during his career - always light-hearted, always great company," Mr Cowen said.

In his homily, Fr Kelly recalled the glowing tributes over the last week and said it sounded like a cause for canonisation.

"His leaving has left our world a poorer place. He was one in a million," Fr Kelly said.

O'Connor Jnr was buried privately in Rahoon cemetery on the outskirts of Galway, the city of which he had the freedom.


From Belfast Telegraph