Heartfelt tributes have been paid at the funeral of young Monaghan under-20s football captain Brendán Óg Ó Dufaigh today.
The 19-year-old was laid to rest at St Joseph’s Old Cemetery, Latlurcan, after a funeral mass at St Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan.
The popular sportsman known as ‘Ógie’ died tragically in a car crash on Friday night at Clontibret, just hours after he led the Monaghan U20 football team to victory in the Ulster Championship semi-final.
Canon Paddy McGinn said the young man’s death had devastated his family.
“I know you are devastated, heartbroken, and in bits today," the priest said.
"Our community too, is numb with grief. Its so evident from flicking through the condolences on RIP.ie that Ógies death has touched the hearts of so many nationally and internationally.”
Fr McGinn said there were many deep questions about why Ógie was taken from us, but added: “Pious platitudes are not any use to us today. We cannot solve the mystery. All we can do is huddle in grief around the remains of shattered dreams and what might have been.”
He said that the sportsman in pre-Covid times used to go to morning mass before a game.
“He had his rosary beads and cross in the side pocket of his kit bag last Friday night,” Fr McGinn said.
"He lit candles in St Joseph’s Church here in Monaghan town and served the 8:30 Mass along with his two siblings. I think Ógie liked to see me coming into the sacristy, because I was a bit quicker than my colleagues - whom shall remain nameless. He recited some of the rosary for the first virtual Lourdes pilgrimage.”
He will be sadly missed by his heartbroken parents, Brendan and Esther, his sisters, Claire and Áine, as well as his extended family, friends and teammates, his funeral heard today, as mourners lined the route of the funeral which was held remotely with numbers in attendance limited due to Covid restrictions.
Gifts offered at the ceremony included a family portrait, a cross and chain to represent his faith, a hammer to represent his work at Kingspan and his leaving cert engineering project to show his love for the practical subject. A registration plate symbolised his love for cars, and three GAA jerseys from his school, home club, and the Monaghan county team represented his star talent as a player.
Ógie was the proud captain of the Monaghan minor team in 2018 which won the Ulster title in Armagh, and made his parents proud when he delivered his victory speech entirely through Irish.
He was popular among his teammates, having been voted as captain, and played every minute of every match that year.
"After matches, the Ó Dufaigh household was often the boys’ immediate headquarters and nine kit bags were counted in the hallway after one particular match,” Fr McGinn said, but added: “Ógie was always very humble – he never played up his game. All he would ever say was ‘I had a good enough game’.”
Ógie also loved cars and “would wash and polish his car as if it was his baby”.
"We have heard many stories over the last few days of the positive deeds and great favours he did for many of his friends,” Fr McGinn noted.
“When Covid restrictions were introduced in March 2020, and schools closed, he phoned Grove Turkeys and started working with them the following morning at 6 o’clock,” the priest said.
"He stayed there until the holidays were announced in July. Ógie was not interested in holidays, and he moved to Kingspan the following day, were he worked until last Thursday.
When closed for Covid after Christmas, he moved to welding iron gates until Kingspan reopened. He was a hard worker, working 12 hr shifts. He would come home at 6.30, eat his daily steak and two turkey burgers while the other family members were reduced to mince.”
However, he still managed to make training at 8 o’clock.
The Taoiseach was represented at the funeral by Commandant Caroline Burke, and was held on the 30th anniversary of the death of his father Brendan’s first wife Ann.
Fr McGinn concluded his homily by saying: “We had hoped Ógie’s star would shine on his family and on the great GAA pitches and stages of Ireland. We believe that young glint in the eye of the shining star of Ógie Ó Dufaigh is shining on all of us today.”
The untimely loss of Ógie, as he was affectionately known, has caused an outpouring of grief in the local community “on a scale that we never imagined possible”, according to Mel McMorrow, who coached Ógie for five years.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland ahead of the funeral, he shared how highly regarded and loved Ógie was in his local GAA club, the Monaghan Harps.
“Every young person in our club idolises him, and every person wanted to be him. We were extremely proud of his achievements. He leaves an enormous chasm in all our lives and our community, and we’re really struggling to see how that will be filled,” said Mr McMorrow.
“Ógie was a wonderful young man who added to every life that he touched. He had a lovely smile that made you feel genuinely glad to meet him. We all feel very privileged to have been part of his life. He’s irreplaceable,” he added.
Monaghan senior player Conor McManus said on Morning Ireland that Ógie was a natural leader on the pitch, and was a special young man who had it all ahead of him.
“There’s no doubt in the world that Ógie would have been brought into the Monaghan panel next year. He’s the U20 champion this year, he was the minor champion two years ago.
“Last Friday night in the second half of their game they made a massive comeback, and Ógie was centre to all of that. It’s just typical of his character how he played football, with heart, determination, passion and leadership.
“He was really buzzing for the final after the game last Friday night and he didn’t get a chance to go to that… he doesn’t get a chance to do so many other things in his life that were all laid out for him, and it’s devastating for him and his family, it’s just insurmountable really,” said Mr McManus.