GALLERY: Laughter and tears at send-off for Christy O'Connor Jnr

The tears flowed and laughter echoed as Galway and the golfing world bade farewell to Christy O’Connor Jnr at his funeral mass attended by more than 2,000 people at the city’s cathedral.
GALLERY: Laughter and tears at send-off for Christy O'Connor Jnr

His lifelong friend, former mayor of Galway John Mulholland, said people were still struggling to believe that the golf legend had died.

“He had many sporting achievements but his greatest gift was his humanity. He worked hard, made the most of his talent and got to the top of his profession while keeping all of his friends. His attitude was infectious and we will miss him dearly,” he said.

President Michael D Higgins was in attendance and Taoiseach Enda Kenny was represented by aide-de-camp Commandant Kieran Carey. Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen also attended, while the city’s mayor, Fine Gael Cllr Frank Fahy, was joined in full robe by the other members of Galway City Council.

Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, who brought the trophy to the altar as a symbol of Christy O’Connor Jnr’s life, said he would be greatly missed.

“He was a big part of Ryder Cup history and folklore as we know. It’s nice to be able to bring it here.”

The O’Connor brothers and son Nigel carry Christy O’Connor Jnr’s coffin at the his funeral at the Galway Cathedral
The O’Connor brothers and son Nigel carry Christy O’Connor Jnr’s coffin at the his funeral at the Galway Cathedral

Other golfers in attendance included Ryder Cup veteran Sam Torrance, Shane Lowry, Des Smyth, John O’Leary, Paul Leonard and Eamon Darcy.

Eamon Darcy said that Christy Jnr was his friend for more than 40 years and there was so much more to him than his famous two-iron on the 18th which helped Europe retain the Ryder Cup at The Belfry in 1989.

“But that two-iron keeps coming up. Christy did an awful lot for charity but I’d say he auctioned that two-iron 40 times, and it was always the original!

“Everyone loved to be in his company. He was a great storyteller, he’d sing a song, he’d play the spoons, play the accordion. For Christy, the days were short and the nights ... were long enough,” said Mr Darcy.

President Michael D Higgins arrives for the funeral of Christy O’Connor Jnr
President Michael D Higgins arrives for the funeral of Christy O’Connor Jnr

Several Galway musicians, including Frankie Gavin, Sean Keane and Carl Hession, performed at the funeral.

Ann O’Connor, Christy Jnr’s daughter, paid tribute to those who had helped repatriate her father’s body, including businessman Denis O’Brien, who was in attendance at the funeral, the Dept Of Foreign Affairs and the Irish ambassador to Spain, David Cooney.

Mr O’Connor was on holiday with his wife Ann in Tenerife when he became ill and died last week. The 67-year-old is also survived by his son Nigel and was predeceased by his 17-year-old son Darren, who was killed in road traffic accident in 1998.

Ann O’Connor said her father was a special person who would be cherished forever.

“Dad, you had so many achievements, a wonderful career and afterwards a highly respected career as a golf course designer, but perhaps your best achievement is you were a wonderful husband, a wonderful dad, an adored papa and a friend to all when anyone needed you.

“You had a wonderful way of making people feel so special and you always had free time for your friends and family. The moment you walked through the door the room would come alive.

“We would like to thank you for everything you have done for us, the wonderful life we shared together, we will love you, we will miss you and we will never forget you,” she said.

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen arrives for the funeral
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen arrives for the funeral

Fr Michael Kelly, a long-time friend of the O’Connor family, said Christy Jnr was a generous man who will be fondly remembered.

“He was one in a million. A star has fallen but his light will continue to shine,” he said.

The Golfing Union of Ireland was represented by president Michael Connaughton, general secretary Albert Lee and Jim McGovern, chairman of the Connacht branch of the GUI.

Entertainer Brendan Grace also attended while other sporting figures included former Irish rugby captain Keith Wood, former Mayo and Galway football manager John O’Mahony, former Galway hurlers Brendan Lynskey, brothers John and Joe Connolly and former Galway footballer Jimmy Duggan.

Irish golfers Paul McGinley, left, and Des Smyth watch as the coffin of Ryder Cup-winning golfer Christy O’Connor Jnr is taken from Galway Cathedral
Irish golfers Paul McGinley, left, and Des Smyth watch as the coffin of Ryder Cup-winning golfer Christy O’Connor Jnr is taken from Galway Cathedral

Christy O’Connor Jnr was laid to rest at Rahoon Cemetery where his son Darren is also buried.

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