Derry ‘titan of hurling’ Seán Mellon laid to rest

Mourners at the Funeral Mass of the late Seán Mellon heard of a ‘kind and affable’ man who will be forever associated with hurling in Derry.
Seán Mellon with Paul Burke and Gerard Finnigan with the McCarthy Cup at the official unveiling of the Na Magha clubhouse in 2016.Seán Mellon with Paul Burke and Gerard Finnigan with the McCarthy Cup at the official unveiling of the Na Magha clubhouse in 2016.
Seán Mellon with Paul Burke and Gerard Finnigan with the McCarthy Cup at the official unveiling of the Na Magha clubhouse in 2016.

Chief among mourners at St. Eugene’s Cathedral yesterday were his children Seán, Bernadette, Gerard, Ciarán, Conor and Éadaoinm, his grandchildren Tóla, Niamh, Oran, Corey, Bláithín and Caireann and his siblings Tommy, Mary, Bridgeen and Pearse.

In a poignant elegy on behalf of his family Pearse described his late brother as ‘kind, affable, encouraging, good-humoured and self-effacing’ but always a ‘determined and single-minded person associated now for ever with the ancient native Irish sport - iomáint/hurling’.

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He was remembered as a father, brother, teacher and, of course, as a founding member of his beloved Na Magha Doire Hurling & Camogie CLG.

The late Seán MellonThe late Seán Mellon
The late Seán Mellon

“Seán I believe used the full measure of gifts, confident in knowing who he was and what he was about,” said Pearse.

He recalled him as ‘first class right full back’ who was ‘skilful and hard but fair, quietly tenacious’ but also as a rock ‘n’ roller and folk singer in his younger days and as a patient and considerate educator. A portrait photograph of Seán with his late wife Maureen, who predeceased him, were among the personal remembrances placed on a table before the altar.

“When I thought of him recently I saw him in my mind’s eye,” said Pearse. “He had reached the open heavenly gates. He hesitated, turned to look back and hears the familiar voice of the love of his life Maureen who had gone before him, calling him as she usually did as he skipped out of the house, heading for a training session, without his tea.

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“‘Come back in here you Seán Mellon.’ Maureen, now saying ‘sure they have a hurling heaven here. The grass is so smooth and the white lines pristine white.

“‘The umpires are in shining white long garments with their wings and the referee is oh, so wise, and fair and better still, they say a hurler’s prayer here every second day’.”

The old air Róisín Dubh was played as a recessional as Seán’s remains were carried from the cathedral for interment in the City Cemetery.

Tributes had earlier poured in for the Derry Gael ever since the news of his sudden death became known on Thursday.

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The club with which he will always be synonymous announced: “An tUasal Seán Mellon. Founding member of Na Magha and life long stalwart of hurling and camogie in Derry City and beyond. Go ndéanfaidh Dia trócaire air. Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís.”

Local teacher and hurler Breandán Quigley paid his respects, stating: “It was with deep sadness I heard of the passing of Seán Mellon. An absolute titan of hurling and the guardian of hurling in the city. Probably fitting that we were informed of his passing while on the field. It’s oft said, but we really will never see the likes of him again.”

Former Derry city councillor Mary Durkan said: “Saddened to learn of passing of Seán Mellon of Na Magha CLG. He inspired generations of young people - in the classroom and on the pitch. From little acorns, mighty oaks grow. And those mighty oaks will be Seán Mellon’s legacy. Comhbhrón ó chroí.”

Condolences were paid from right across the city’s Gaelic games fraternity.

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Doire Trasna stated: “It is with great sadness that the club has heard of the passing of Seán Mellon. We have had many members who Seán would have coached down though the years and gave to them a love of our games and culture. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and to his beloved Na Magha family.”

Seán Dolan’s paid their respects: “Condolences to the Mellon family and all at Na Magha CLG. Legend a word used too freely but Seán without a doubt was a legend of hurling.”

Culmore Cú Chulainns stated: “We would like to offer our sincere condolences to the Mellon family and everyone at NaMagha CLG on the passing of Seán Mellon. Seán coached hurling and camogie in the city for more than 50 years. A passionate Gael who will be dearly missed. Scíth a ligean.”

And from as far away as Cork the following tribute was paid by the Blackrock hurling club: “It’s with great sadness we mark the passing of a legend of the GAA, Seán Mellon of Na Magha CLG.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, club and friends from your dear friends in the Rockies. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.”

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