Galway bids farewell to king of the greens

A guard of honour escorts the remains of Christy O'Connor Junior as his cortege makes its way from the Cathedral to Rahoon Cemetery.

Hundreds of mourners at Christy O’Connor Junior’s funeral mass in Galway Cathedral on Tuesday were told: “You loved him in life, do not forget him in death”.

Fr Michael Kelly, in his homily, said the hearts of the golfer’s close family were experiencing emptiness but they will take some comfort from the thousands of expressions of condolences.

Describing Mr O’Connor as “one in a million”, Fr Kelly said: “The support and prayers of the thousands of friends who shook your hands these last few days will carry you through the various stages of your loss and mourning.

“Although out of sight, Christy will be watching over you. He has only gone to God and God is very near. A star has fallen but his light will continue to shine. And just as he was your guiding light through difficulties and problems while he was alive, may he continue to light your way through the lonely days ahead.”

President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, was one of the mourners present at the Galway Cathedral congregation that included golfers Paul McGinley, Eamon D’Arcy and Sam Torrance.

Others who attended included former Ireland rugby captain, Keith Wood, businessman Denis O’Brien, horse trainer Michael ‘Mouse’ Morris, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, as well as a representative of current Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Mr O’Connor Junior was a Freeman of Galway City and so Galway City Councillors attended as a Council robed.

The 67-year-old, who died in Tenerife last Wednesday, is fondly remembered for his breathtaking two-iron approach shot to the 18th hole at the Belfry, which enabled Europe retain the Ryder Cup in 1989.

Fittingly, last year’s captain, Paul McGinley, brought the Ryder Cup trophy to his coffin.

Fr Kelly, a retired parish priest of Craughwell and close family friend, recalled how Mr O’Connor Junior’s faith helped him when his son, Darren, died in a road crash in 1998 at the age of 17.

“He did have strong faith and that is what came to his rescue after Darren’s tragic accident. He certainly believed in ‘the communion of Saints, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting’. He spoke openly and confidently of his conviction that he would meet Darren again – not quite so soon, I imagine.

“He prayed to him and for him and was convinced that Darren came to his assistance more than once. Throughout those dark days and during his wife Ann’s illness their faith supported them and enabled them carry their cross with great dignity,” he said.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.