FRAGILE was never a word associated with Eamonn McDaid.
A fit, strong, young man of 22, he lined out for Illes Celtic Football Club in midfield where all the action was, and was never happier than when inflicting a defeat on the field of play.
He was a mechanic and carpenter, traditionally masculine trades that he plied with both skill and speed. He was an insatiable socialiser and it took nothing out of him to regale others with song and banter into the small hours.
And he loved driving cars. The further the journey the better, he was happy to run errands as an excuse to get some more miles under his belt. He seemed inexhaustible and unstoppable.
But fragile he proved to be last Sunday night in the car crash that claimed eight lives and Fr John Walsh, parish priest of Buncrana, could not let the occasion of his funeral pass without trying to leave his peers with some understanding of their vulnerability amid their perception of invincibility.
“Dear young people, friends and associates of Eamonn, permit me to address you,” he began.
“Allow me to say to you that you are not indestructible at the age of 22. You are very fragile. All of us are. Life itself is fragile.
“We have to be careful and even wise if we are to reach adulthood and middle age and old age. There are no guarantees but care and caution are mighty helps in the effort at holding on to life.
“I don’t mean to patronise you. When I was your age, I too felt indestructible. But none of us is. That’s a plain fact of life.
“So please, please, please, live life on its terms, within its rules and boundaries otherwise life will be cruel and merciless towards you and towards the family and friends who will have to bear you to the grave.”
Fr Walsh’s pleas were heard by a hushed congregation of 600 in St Mary’s Church, Cockhill, on the outskirts of Buncrana town as Eamonn became the fifth of Sunday night’s victims to be bade farewell.
His parents, Seamus and Martha, led the mourners along with Eamonn’s four brothers, Martin, Seán and Liam who were all older than him, and James, who was younger. Fr Walsh also extended sympathies to Eamonn’s girlfriend, Yvonne, and his beloved granny, Rose.
The priest described the devastating turn of events that change lives so suddenly on Sunday. That evening, Buncrana, in the midst of hosting 150 Spanish students on their annual summer exchange, was alive with roars of Ole and Bravo as Spain contested and won the World Cup final.
Just a couple of hours later, the good cheer turned to horror as he and the other priests of the parish were contacted by gardaí and fire crews saying they were urgently needed at a bad crash. They were told there was a number of fatalities but never imagined there could be eight. “This grim fact has left all of us reeling in shock and has left so many families shattered,” he said.
He spoke of the huge number of people who turned out to be with Eamonn’s family in the days since. “If numbers alone could heal, then the massive outpouring of love and concern and support for Eamonn’s family during the past few days and again this morning would have consoled them in their grief and wiped away their tears.”
Addressing them directly, he said: “I invite you to lean on all the love and solidarity and support of our community which is there for you in these grim days, and may you, in the days and months ahead, remember it as our testament to Eamonn and as a demonstration of our great love for you and empathy with you.”
He recalled Eamonn as a loving son and affectionate brother. “A bubbly character, wild for craic, he was the life and soul of every party. He loved singing well on into the morning. His laugh and smile were infectious.
“He loved sailing about the country in a car and would have gone to Cork in the morning for you if had got the chance. He enjoyed football and was very competitive at it. He enjoyed seeing others get their comeuppance on the football field.”
Family members brought gifts to the altar that symbolised Eamonn’s life. They included a spanner from his tool kit, a framed picture of him smartly dressed and happy on a night out, and his number 11 football shirt.
Eamonn was buried in the adjoining cemetery, on the highest point of the hill on which the graves are arranged. By accident or arrangement, the plot overlooks the local all-weather five-aside soccer pitches.
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