'I wish it were a bad dream' - Jack Kenneally's father full of sorrow that friend died trying to save his drowning son

By Gordon Deegan

The grieving father of 15-year-old Ennis schoolboy, Jack Kenneally told mourners that his heart fills will sorrow knowing that his friend, Shay Moloney lost his life trying to save his son’s life.

At Jack's packed funeral mass at the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in Ennis, Sean Kenneally said that he “will be forever grateful” to Shay for his attempts to save Jack from drowning last Thursday afternoon.

The two 'brothers-in arms' died in the double drowning tragedy in a disused quarry at Knockanean outside Ennis and standing at the altar and looking skyward, Mr Kenneally said solemnly: “Thank you, Shay.”

He said: “Jack, it fills with me sorrow that to know that Shay lost his life trying to save you.”

Mourners at Jack Kenneally's funeral today.

Fr Jerry Carey said that Jack and Shay “are now united forever” while chief celebrant, Fr Tom Hogan told mourners that “an unbelievable sadness has affected all of us - two young lads so quickly their life was no more”.

Mr Kenneally said that he can’t forget the bravery of the boys’ friend, Cillian, who jumped into the lake in a desperate attempt to save his friends.

Jack was the ‘baby’ of the Kenneally family and according to Fr Hogan had a special relationship with his three older sisters, Danielle, Katie and Aisling where they doted on him and spoiled him.

Comforted by his three girls on the altar as he paid an emotional tribute, Mr Kenneally said: “There is now an empty seat at our table, an empty room in our house, but there will never be an empty space in our hearts.

I wish it were a bad dream - clearly it is not.

"Who would have ever believed that something like this would have happened our family. The sense of shock and disbelief is palpable in the town in the last few days.”

Poignantly, the majority of mourners in the very large crowd were teenagers with many wearing the red and black of Ennis RFC while students from Jack’s Ennis Community College also were there wearing the school uniform.

Jack and Shay were stars of the u-15 Ennis rugby team this year and there were large numbers of players from the rival Young Munster u15 team also in attendance.

Shay Maloney (left) and Jack Kenneally (right). Pic: Ennis Rugby Club Twitter

Outside after the mass, there were heartrending scenes of teenagers comforting each other and wiping away tears as Jack's coffin, draped in the Ennis RFC colours, was carried to the hearse.

Earlier at the funeral mass, Mr Kenneally said that Jack was ‘an outstanding person and outstanding athlete and a good friend to many. Jack, if you are only a small bit proud of me as I am of you, I will be a lucky man.”

He said that the void left by Jack's passing can never be filled.

Mr Kenneally paid tribute to Jack’s coaches at Ennis RFC.

He said: “Ye had a huge impact on Jack’s life. He became a different man when he started playing rugby. He was a rugby star."

After receiving a standing ovation, Mr Kenneally turned around and was embraced by his three daughters.

Parents Sean and Tina walk after the coffin draped with a Munster flag as Ennis Rugby Club members provide a guard of honour at the funeral of Jack Kenneally at Ennis Cathedral today.

In a tribute to Jack at the start of the service, his u15 rugby coach at Ennis RFC , Padraig Brennan said that he is proud to have coached Jack and Shay.

Talking about Jack, Mr Brennan said: “What a young man….What a young man and he was going all the way.”

Mr Brennan said that he would drive Jack, Shay and David Benteke - ‘the three Holy Family School lads’ - to matches with three sitting together in the back.

He said: “Before we would get to the match, we would have to put on AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’ for them and away we went.”

Mr Brennan said that Jack was one a number of players he sent into the Munster underage academy.

He said: “Jack had strength, speed and valour - everything you wanted in a rugby player. He could play anywhere, that is the kind of type of young fella he was.”

Fr Hogan said that Jack “was born into a family where love is in the air. Love never dies - love is like a seal in our hearts that endures. Jack filled up your world and filled up ye’re hearts - he was a most precious gift”.

The parish priest said that Jack’s parents, Sean and Tina “are going through unbelievable pain”.

Fr Hogan said that he was gobsmacked by the outpouring of solidarity shown by Jack’s teenage friends in the Church on Saturday night as they kissed the photo of Jack and touched his coffin as they filed past.

Fr Hogan said that “beloved Jack brought to his family such joy, fun, vitality and humour and annoyance and craic - the whole mixture. He will be forever young in ye’re lives.”

Addressing Jack’s sisters, Fr Hogan said: “Please God when your children come girls that ye will tell them about Jack’s heart - that he loved ye and ye in turn loved him; that ye spoiled him and ye had a special relationship with him.”

Jack was later laid to rest at Drumcliffe cemetery outside Ennis and many of the young mourners today will be attending the removal of Shay Moloney on Sunday evening with Shay’s funeral mass due to take place at the same church on Monday morning.


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