Belfast Telegraph

Thousands bid farewell to golfing giant Christy O'Connor Jnr

By Mark O'Regan

A funeral bell tolled as thousands of mourners filed into Galway Cathedral to pay their respects to a sporting giant.

A heavy pall of grief hung heavy in the air as family and friends said a fond farewell to Christy O'Connor Jnr.

The 67-year-old, best remembered for his part in Europe's Ryder Cup win in 1989, was on holiday in Tenerife last week when he died in his sleep.

The chief mourners were his wife Ann, son Nigel and daughter Ann, but also there was Irish President Michael D Higgins, Ryder Cup-winning captain Paul McGinley, former Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen and filmmaker Jim Sheridan.

Chief celebrant and retired parish priest Fr Michael Kelly, who is a close family friend, said Christy was a "proud Irishman" who had sampled triumph and the deepest of tragedies during his chequered life.

He pointed out the golfer's untimely death was not the first such trauma to befall the family, referring to the death of Christy's son 18 years ago.

The devastation that followed the death of the 17-year-old in 1998 was a cross he found difficult to bear.

"They say it is not how a person died that is important but how he lived'," Fr Kelly told the packed congregation. "For Christy, as for Darren, the end came suddenly and too soon. He spoke openly and confidently of his conviction that he would meet Darren again - not quite so soon, I imagine. A star has fallen, but his light will continue to shine.

The deceased golfer's uncle, 91-year-old Christy O'Connor Snr, who had nurtured his nephew's sporting talents, was unable to attend the funeral.

Movingly, a procession of items were brought to the altar which represented a varied life: a family photograph, a Ryder Cup trophy, an accordion and a golf course design map.

And in a highly emotional moment, Christy's daughter, Ann, spoke from the altar, revealing how the family have been left bereft by his passing.

She told a hushed congregation at the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and Saint Nicholas that his greatest achievement was being a "wonderful husband, dad, and adored Papa".

"You had a wonderful way of making people feel so special," she said.

Midway through her tribute, her voice faltered and she struggled to continue.

But her brother, Nigel, standing by her side, helped her read the remainder of the eulogy, which they narrated in unison.

After the sombre service, some smiles returned as old friends started uncorking anecdotes of times they had spent with Christy.

Belfast Telegraph


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