“I wanted to do something for daddy”

Inishowen's first Eimear O'Neill
Inishowen's first Eimear O'Neill

To coincide with her officially unveiling as Inishowen’s first ever Mary from Dungloe, one Buncrana Beauty is hosting a unique charitable auction to honour her dad, Gerry O’Neill.

Former bank manager in Bank of Ireland in Moville and Buncrana, Gerry was a key figure throughout Inishowen especially for his involvement in Gaelic games and for his love of Celtic Football Club.

23-year-old Eimear O’Neill lost her dad on the 11th December suddenly to a heart attack and since his death, Eimear has wanted to do something in his memory.

“I had to hold a charitable event as part of my entrance into the Mary from Dungloe competition, and so I knew straight away I wanted to do it for dad.”

One of the founding members of Colaisti Inis Eoghain, Gerry had a huge involvement in the GAA throughout Inishowen, Eimear has found the GAA a huge support not only in her bid to find the perfect items for the auction, but also since his death in December.

“Everyone has been so kind, all the GAA people and our neighbours in Ballymagan in Buncrana and in Gulladuff in Moville have been so generous, and a great support to the whole family.”

Held in aid of the NI Chest Heart and Stroke Foundation (in The Half Way House Burnfoot on Friday 8th July at 8.30 pm) the auction has a special significance to Eimear.

“Daddy died of a heart attack in Altnagelvin Hospital so that’s why we chose that cause, we just want to do our bit. We hope to raise at least €500, but hopefully we can raise even more. Although I have to admit I am nervous and a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, I just hope people show up and have a great nights craic.”

Eimear and her mum Winnie, sister Ciara and brothers Sean and Adrian, have been blown away by the generosity of the people and businesses they ask for help.

“We have a whole load of things on offer, from a days rock climbing to having your own personal chef for the night, a unique handmade rocking horse to DJ services for one night. People are so kind, it’s mental there’s loads of people ringing and texting and spreading the word about the auction. I’m just overwhelmed.”

Originally from Newtownstewart, Gerry was a lifelong Tyrone follower (something that wasn’t always so popular in Donegal) and a fanatical Celtic fan, who was regularly seen on the terraces in Park Head. In his memory, Eimear has secured Tyrone jerseys and also Celtic tickets to be auctioned off on the night.

“Gaelic meant so much to daddy, it was big part of his life, especially the locals in Moville and Buncrana. He also played a big role in setting Colaiste Clineal Eoghain.”

Eimear’s cousin has also set up a website under Gerry’s name entitled: www.justgiving.com/inmemoryofgerard

Though the auction is to be held in memory of her dad, there is still another huge part to it which Eimear admits is “really nervous” about.

“This will be my first official unveiling as the Inishowen Mary from Dungloe I was so shocked one day to receive an email asking me if I was interested in being Inishowen’s first ever “Mary”, they conducted a phone interview and when I was selected I couldn’t believe it.”

Eimear’s mum Winnie, from Dungloe, is also a former “Mary” as was her aunt Angela, who won the title of Glasgow Mary.

“Everyone is so delighted for me, all my family are coming over from Scotland and my mum is already talking about getting new clothes for the event.”

The show starts at 8.30pm on Friday 8th July in the new Fresh Lounge in the Halfway House in Burnfoot. MC for the night will be Emmett Clarke and Adrian Owens from Glengad will be performing after the big auction.

Everyone is invited to come along, enjoy the craic, remembering Gerry, and rising vital funds for the Stroke and Chest Foundation.