For the past 21 days, an army of volunteers, the Garda sub-aqua unit and the Navy have combed the shores of the Lee for the missing student.
However, at 9.05am yesterday the search ended in tragedy when Mr Mullally’s body was found by three of his friends patrolling the shoreline at the mouth of the Glashaboy tributary at Tivoli.
The 20-year-old Innishannon man was last seen after a night out in Cork city on December 14.
Search team co-ordinator Bernard O’Mahony said that despite the sad news, it did offer some consolation to the Mullally family.
“I would like to thank everybody who helped in the search. Friends and people from here in Innishannon, but also all the people from around Cork who came out and volunteered. It was a phenomenal effort. The list is too long to mention everybody.
“At least now the family of Joe can bring him home and can grieve properly.”
The search for the Cork Institute of Technology student was carried out by a team that grew in numbers the longer he remained missing.
It involved divers from Mallow, Bandon and beyond, as well as boat owners from all along the Cork coast.
Mr O’Mahony said the weather throughout Christmas meant searchers were out 24 hours a day in horrendous conditions.
Yesterday, Garda Inspector Mick Commyns praised the efforts of the volunteers.
“We would like to thank everybody who was involved throughout the search and to sympathise with the family of Mr Mullally. The number of people from Innishannon and other places was simply huge. That was every day, even Christmas Day and New Year’s, it was a phenomenal level of commitment. It was easy for us to control the search with the community willing to do so much.”
The fire brigade’s Swift Water Rescue Team brought Mr Mullally’s remains from the scene to Cork University Hospital where a post mortem was carried out by assistant state pathologist Margaret Bolster.
Foul play has been ruled out.