Mourners packed St. Patrick’s Church in Dungiven on Sunday to say their final goodbye to the former manager of the Derry senior hurling team, James O’Kane.
The 40-year-old was from Banagher, a dad-of-three and taught at St. Patrick’s College in Maghera, where staff and pupils paid tribute to their “esteemed colleague and friend”.
Addressing a packed chapel on Sunday, Fr. Paddy Baker said: “The sheer numbers of people today here in Dungiven chapel, and the numbers of people who came to the wake since Friday bears testimony to the man whom we honour today with Christian burial after this Mass.”
Mr. O’Kane was appointed manager of the Derry senior hurlers in 2010. He hurled and played football for Banagher, and also played rugby for City of Derry. “He was also a very keen cyclist. When was not playing himself, James involved himself in the coaching end of things,” said Fr. Baker.
Mr. O’Kane lived with his wife and children in Dungiven, and had a connection with Kevin Lynch Hurling Club.
“As you know James was a native of Banagher, lived here in Dungiven and taught in St. Patrick’s College, Maghera, but his reputation and popularity went far beyond these three parishes,” said Fr. Baker. “To say that James was popular would be an understatement. His popularity knew no bounds. James was one of life’s gentlemen. So I can safely state here today that James was held in very high esteem.”
Fr. Baker spoke about the sadness at the school. “We had a prayer service for James in the school on Friday morning last. It was a very sad and touching moment for all of us. He was a valued member of the staff, a competent and well liked teacher, a great motivator on the sporting field and great fun in the staff room,” said Fr. Baker.
Mr. O’Kane’s family, through Fr. Baker, thanked hospital and Hospice staff in Derry, “also doctors and nurses who came to the house to attend to James in the last few days”.
“I offer my sympathy to you, Lorraine, Jemma, Padraig and Sean. My deepest sympathy also to James’ parents, Patsy and Rosemary; sister Monica; brothers Martin, Richard, Dennis and Peter. Also not to forget Philip, his close friend and extra brother.”
Fr. Baker left the congregation with an inspirational message.
“James was instrumental when Banagher club designed their new crest or motto which was ‘NO STRENGTH LIKE COURAGE’. I think that says it all. Finally, in all the praise I have heard these last few days about James there is one word that keeps recurring; that word ‘inspiration’. Not only was James an inspiration in life, but he was also an inspiration in the way he faced his sickness. May he rest in peace.”
Derry GAA website paid their condolences said: “On behalf of all of Gaels within Derry GAA, we extend our deepest sympathies to James’ family and wish them strength at this time. We would also like to express our condolences to St Mary’s GAA, Banagher and all friends and colleagues of James. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.”