Hundreds of people lined the streets of Cork city today to bid an emotional farewell to the man described as a great servant to young people, to the needy and vulnerable, and to his beloved Cork City FC for more than 30-years.
Players, staff and fans, many wearing club jerseys, hats and scarves, and some waving flags, applauded as the funeral cortege of, 56, left the Church of the Holy Cross in , on the city's southside, before passing City Hall where Lord Mayor, Cllr Joe Kavanagh, was among those who stood in a guard of honour.
Mr Kennedy, who was originally frombut who lived in , died last Friday evening after getting into difficulty while swimming in Caliso Bay, between Youghal and Ardmore.
His wife, Chris, and their children Aaron and Grace, led a group of just 50 mourners at the Requiem Mass. The ceremony was relayed by a public address system to hundreds of mourners who stood outside.
In her eulogy, Ms Kennedy told them she wished she had the words to say what was in her heart and to be able to say what John meant to her and her family.
“He was all of the things that people said about him,” she said. “He was loving, kind, and generous, especially with his time.
“He was a people person and a wonderful husband and father. John loved his time as a youth worker he loved to see young people move past their troubles and develop a life of real meaning.
“And later when he moved on to sport in youth work, it was a role he equally cherished.
The people of Cork today paid tribute to community activist John Kennedy RIP— Cork City Council #StaySafe (@corkcitycouncil) September 23, 2020
John touched the lives of many across both Cork City and County through his work with Ogra Chorcai and later with @Foroige, and his dedication to @CorkCityFC
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis pic.twitter.com/tyWjEG2KzX
“Each Friday night I always ring my brother Ger and he would always ask ‘where is John tonight?’, and I might say oh he’s only in Turner’s Cross but he’d be organising 10 buses to go to Dublin next weekend and we would be laughing about it.
“He travelled all around the country and beyond with Cork City FC but we never minded it because we knew we loved him and we knew he loved us.
“John and I had hoped to grow old together and it’s really hard that he was taken from us so soon but I am grateful for the 32 years that we had together, 29 of them married, and I am so grateful that Aaron and Grace had such a wonderful father.
“It will be a really hard road to go on without him so I would ask you to keep us in your heart and in your prayers.”
Chief celebrant, Fr Colin Doocey, said Mr Kennedy was involved in many aspects of parish and community life, serving as a minister of the Eucharist in the church, serving as the chairperson of the first Holy Cross parish assembly, and helping to organise the annual Saint Michael’s cemetery mass.
“John had a great gift of bringing people together, of engaging with them and giving everyone a fair chance at those meetings."
Fr Doocey also told how Mr Kennedy had volunteered to help as part of the community response during the Covid-19 lockdown, delivering food hampers to many homes.
“John had great time for people when he delivered those hampers - it wasn’t just a matter of leaving them with the people. He took time to speak to people,” he said.
He recalled his love of Cork City FC for over 30 years, his role in establishing the family enclosure at Turner’s Cross, and how he would organise buses for fans to travel to away matches.
And he recalled how proud and excited Mr Kennedy was when he brought theand League of Ireland cups to the church grounds in 2017 for people to view.
“We can sum it all up in one word - service - helping others, especially the needy and most vulnerable, serving other people, and being happy to do this.
“He was always happy to serve, and he did it with great joy, with great enthusiasm.”
Mr Kennedy served on the board of management of Cork City FC and as a volunteer for over 30 years.
He worked with Ógra Chorcaí, and later with Foróige, and was known and hugely respected across the youth work and community sector in.