Born and raised in the village of Culleens near Ballina, he was raised alongside his four brothers and younger sister by parents David — a farmer and a taxi driver in Ballina — and Bríd.
The middle child in the family, he attended the local national school, Scoil Naomh Bríd.
Yesterday the school principal, Clair Cooke, recalled teaching Tony and his siblings, describing the family as “good people”.
“He was a lovely young fella,” Ms Cooke said. “Full of the joys and into sport.”
He played football and hurling and later attended St Muredach’s College in Ballina, leaving in 1996.
He began studying engineering in DIT, but the call of An Garda Síochána meant he later switched to training in Templemore. He was first posted to Cabinteely in Dublin and it is understood he first met the woman who he later married, Nicola, in the capital.
Nicola, a public health nurse, is originally from Blackrock near Dundalk, and the couple were married in May 2008.
Tony’s transfer to Omeath, where recently he was one of three gardaí working in the local station, meant the family were close to Nicola’s relatives. They have three children — two girls and a boy, the eldest of whom is eight.
In Omeath, Tony was seen as a valued member of the community, one that has seen its own share of troubles over the years due to its proximity to the border. Fr Christy McElwee said locals in the area “knew him well”.
“He was a very popular man here, very outgoing,” he said. “The gardaí can be very proud of him — he was a very diligent man.”
One photograph of Tony shows him with a moustache — just one example of his fundraising activities. He, like his other siblings now living away from Ballina, paid visits home and was admired in the area where he lived and where he worked.
The gap left by his senseless murder is being felt in more than one place. According to Ms Cooke: “It is very traumatic for everyone.”