‘On the pitch or in life, Aodhán was a leader’

Young Derry man Aodhán O’Donnell “touched so many hearts and has left a host of memories”, mourners at his funeral were told yesterday.

There was a huge turnout for the funeral of the talented hurler, who died suddenly last weekend.

Family members at the funeral of 19-year Derry hurler Aodhán O'Donnell  at St Eugene's Cathedral yesterday morning. DER2918GS008

Family members at the funeral of 19-year Derry hurler Aodhán O'Donnell at St Eugene's Cathedral yesterday morning. DER2918GS008

His team mates from Na Magha and Derry formed a guard of honour as Aodhán’s coffin, draped in the Na Magha colours, was carried into St. Eugene’s Cathedral by his grieving family.

Officiating at Requiem Mass yesterday morning, Fr Chris Ferguson described the 19-year-old as having had a remarkable impact on those who knew and loved him.

Fr Ferguson said: “Our heartbreak is all too real this morning as we gather to mourn Aodhán’s death.

“None of this makes sense, Aodhán was the one who carried others, who offered hope. Aodhán was living his dream, he certainly had high hopes.

Aodh�n O'Donnell pictured with the Under-16 Player of the Year trophy he won back in 2013.

Aodh�n O'Donnell pictured with the Under-16 Player of the Year trophy he won back in 2013.

“In the face of such an unexpected tragedy we can be tempted to give up, to believe there is no hope on this side of the grave. Aodhán has left us a legacy of untiring friendship and love, this we celebrate today. We remind ourselves of a remarkable young life as we open our hearts to God’s healing.”

Fr Ferguson said it was impossible to sum up or do justice to anyone’s life, never mind someone like Aodhán “who has touched so many hearts and has left a host of memories”.

“For Aodhán’s family and friends, his girlfriend Dervla, no amount of words or gestures will bring Aodhán back. The enormity of the pain reminds everyone here how much Aodhán was loved and cherished,” he said.”

Fr Ferguson told mourners that former St Eugene’s P.S. and St Columb’s College pupil Aodhán was the “baby” of the O’Donnell family, the third child of Moira and Gerry, and “revelled in being the youngest”.

Aodhán O'Donnell 's father Gerry and brother Sean remove the Na Magha from his coffin at St Eugene's Cathedral yesterday morning. DER2918GS010

Aodhán O'Donnell 's father Gerry and brother Sean remove the Na Magha from his coffin at St Eugene's Cathedral yesterday morning. DER2918GS010

“From a young age Aodhán loved sports and was especially passionate about hurling. Aged four Aodhán played his first hurling match, he was so skinny and small, you could hardly see him beneath his helmet and jersey,” Fr Ferguson said, adding: “Aodhán took great pride in representing Na Magha, the City’s only hurling team and his native County, Derry. He played with grace and skill, but more importantly Aodhan lead by example. He would never had given up, always displayed great heart and determination. Whether on the pitch or in life, Aodhan was a leader, someone who was loved and looked up too.”

In fact, he said, Aodhán was held in so much respect by his friends he was call ‘papa’.

During the service, those gathered recalled with fondness the person Aodhán was as Fr Ferguson recounted various anecdotes and episodes from the memorable times family and friends had shared with Aodhán, stories which brought to the fore his wit, enthusiasm, and willingness to be there for others. “Whether called papa or daddy Aodhán, you knew you were safe with Aodhán, he always had you back,” Fr Chris said. “Aodhan was the person who looked out for everyone, who seemed to be able to handle any situation. You listen to his friends and you discover a person who was full of life, fun and energy, who was extremely confident and competitive.

“Whether we’re talking about hurling teams, his colleagues from Primark, his school friends and those at university, Aodhán was always at the centre of everything.”

The coffin of 19-year Derry hurler Aodhán O'Donnell  arrives at St Eugene's Cathedral, for Requiem Mass,  yesterday morning. DER2918GS009

The coffin of 19-year Derry hurler Aodhán O'Donnell arrives at St Eugene's Cathedral, for Requiem Mass, yesterday morning. DER2918GS009

He added that all this had made his sudden passing all the more heartbreaking. “There are so many questions, why, what if, if I had only, if he had only? I know it’s only natural to question but in the end, it will do us no good, we can’t make sense of this, our searches will only end in frustration. What we need to focus on is each other and the care we take of one another,” he added.

Derry Minor Hurlers form a guard of honour at the funeral of 19-year Aodhán O'Donnell  at St Eugene's Cathedral yesterday morning. DER2918GS013

Derry Minor Hurlers form a guard of honour at the funeral of 19-year Aodhán O'Donnell at St Eugene's Cathedral yesterday morning. DER2918GS013

Mourners attend the funeral of Derry hurler Aodhán O'Donnell at St Eugene's Cathedral  yesterday morning. DER2918GS014

Mourners attend the funeral of Derry hurler Aodhán O'Donnell at St Eugene's Cathedral yesterday morning. DER2918GS014

Mourners attend the funeral of Derry hurler Aodhán O'Donnell at St Eugene's Cathedral  yesterday morning. DER2918GS014

Mourners attend the funeral of Derry hurler Aodhán O'Donnell at St Eugene's Cathedral yesterday morning. DER2918GS014