Thousands line streets to pay last respects

MURDERED Limerick man Shane Geoghegan earned admiration on the rugby field as a Garryowen captain.

In life, generally, he was known as a kind, fine person.

Yesterday, in death, thousands of mourners rendered a final spontaneous applause as his coffin, draped in the Garryowen flag, was borne from St Joseph’s Church.

State and church, along with national and international figures in the world of rugby, together with the good people of Limerick came to express solidarity with grief-stricken parents Tom and Mary Geoghegan, brother Anthony and fiancee Jenna Barry.

More than 1,000 filled St Joseph’s Church and another 1,500 stood outside.

Hundreds more lined the 3km final journey to the old cemetery in Mungret.

Shane’s former teacher at Crescent College Comprehensive, Fr Jim Maher, told mourners that the murder of Shane — remembered at school as a “gentle giant” — was an affront to the sacredness of life.

“It is another sad reflection of the more sinister aspects of our city, where this kind of violent crime leaves so much pain and sorrow, suffering and heartache in its wake,” he said.

The heartbroken parents, he said, not only had to see their daughter Katie out of the world, when she died from leukaemia, aged 12, but now had to see their son Shane, taken from them at the age of 28.

Fr Maher said: “And to think that hardly a stone’s throw away from his home, his former school and his rugby club Garryowen, he was brutally set upon. It makes what happened all the more shocking and adds to our sense of loss, pain and revulsion.

“In the early hours of Sunday morning as Shane made his way home, after having had an enjoyable evening in the company of friends, his expectation was that he would get home safe and sound. Sadly that was not to be. His homecoming was brutally interrupted.”

Hopefully, he said, Shane’s death will “mark a turning point, leading to a greater intensification of the efforts already being made by so many, so that we can live without fear in our homes and in our neighbourhoods and that the cycle of violence can be short-circuited and confined to history”.

President Mary McAleese sent a personal message of condolence from Áras an Uachtaráin.

The Bishop of Limerick, Dr Donal Murray, who could not be present issued a statement in which he said: “The senseless killing of an innocent, good man with his whole life before him was further evidence of the futility of this evil feud and the callous inhumanity with which it is pursued.”

Taoiseach Brian Cowen was represented by his Aide de Camp, Comdt Michael Treacy. Also in the packed congregation were ministers Willie O’Dea and Peter Power, Labour TD Jan O’Sullivan and Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan.

Mayor John Gilligan led the city council in their red robes along with Limerick city manager Tom Mackey.

Rugby figures were headed by John Lyons, president of the IRFU, and Andy Leslie, president of the New Zealand rugby union, who previously coached at Garryowen.

Players included internationals Jerry Flannery and David Wallace and former greats such as Gerry McLoughlin, Philip Danaher, Noel Murphy, Brian O’Brien and former coach Eddie O’Sullivan.

Assistant Garda commissioner Kevin Ludlow and Supt Frank O’Brien, who is leading the murder investigation, were also present.

As the church ceremony concluded, Shane’s brother Anthony recited a poem, Remember Me, which ended with the lines: “You can cherish his memory and live on.

“You can cry, close your mind, be empty and turn your back.

“Or you can do what he would want.

“Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

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