Dillon Quirke laid to rest with a sod of turf from the Semple Stadium pitch

In another reality, Dillon Quirke would have led his Tipperary colleagues in an All-Ireland final parade. Today, the county’s finest hurlers trooped in behind their friend’s coffin, in single file and in their county jerseys
Dillon Quirke laid to rest with a sod of turf from the Semple Stadium pitch

RIP: Dillon Quirke's funeral on his way to be buried in Conoulty, County Tipperary. Pic: Brendan Gleeson

In another reality, Dillon Quirke would have led his Tipperary colleagues in an All-Ireland final parade.

Today, the county’s finest hurlers trooped in behind their friend’s coffin, in single file and in their county jerseys.

How strange and sad to see the familiar ritual in such a context.

To the right of the Premier County players, Dillon’s teammates from Clonoulty-Rossmore, followed their friend and captain again. They wore white shirts, with the club’s green and yellow jersey draped over a shoulder.

The 24-year-old died on Friday night after collapsing shortly before half-time during a senior championship game against Kilruane MacDonaghs. He was taken to hospital, where he died.

‘They’re leaving the hurling pitch now,’ a Garda had told some of the crowd some time earlier. Two old men in short sleeves sitting in the shade of Tony Brennan’s bar agreed they’d be here within 10 minutes.

It took longer. Two garda outriders, with lights silently flashing, showed a massive party of mourners, led by Dillon’s parents, Dan & Hazel and sisters Shannon & Kellie, in the road.

Dozens of young school children, immaculately turned out in green and yellow, formed a poignant guard of honour.

Outside the local post office, the club colours flew, so often a proud standard for locals to rally around. It is still and Dillon’s coffin was draped in the flag, as well as Tipperary’s famous blue and yellow.

Later, Dillon’s uncle, and the club president, Andrew Fryday, thanked the local people for their huge support since last Friday’s awful events.

The evidence of that work was on show with hundreds of bottles of water shared amongst those throughout the congregation inside the church and through the main street.

The community hall was prepared beautifully for refreshments, club stalwarts in high-vis jackets waved drivers into well-organised car parks.

GAA president Larry McCarthy, having walked in the road with the funeral party, flanked by Tipperary officials and Munster Council members, surveyed the sad scene from the steps of Church of St. John the Baptist.

President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Micheál Martin were represented, the GPA’s Tom Parsons was present along with generations of Tipp hurlers, local TDs, GAA personalities like Marty Morrissey and thousands of mourners under a hot noon sun.

Another of Dillon’s uncles, Philip, had earlier this week asked people to wear the No 11 as a small tribute to Dillon. There was lots of that on show in the various jerseys drawn from around the county and beyond.

A large group of Kilruane MacDonaghs players stayed huddled outside the church, listening with heads bent as their club were thanked for their support.

‘You’ve been with us every day since,’ Andrew said as he went through the list of people and organisations who've been of help since Friday.

Throughout the mass, Dillon’s personality was articulated beautifully. No one’s defined by one pastime and passion, of course.

His hurley and trademark red helmet were offered as gifts but so too were concert tickets, a work apron from the family deli business, photographs of friends and his ‘lucky pants’.

We won’t say anything about those, said celebrant Fr Thomas Ahearn to laughter.

Andrew Fryday sketched out the ‘divilment’ that went into defining a personality - painting county council signs in the club colours, super-gluing €2 coins to the ground outside bars; general good fun and memories that will now be missed and cherished.

"It was a disaster to us to see him leave the stadium the way he left,” he said when eulogising Dillon as his uncle, but also club chairman. “But he left the way he wanted to leave - a shining star."

"The feeling of grief that was there that night, it has hit across every corner of us. It has hurt us, young and old.

"Dillon was a lovely, lovely fella. A perfect gentleman. Any mother and father would like to have him as a son. He's what any manager would want to have; a leader, an inspiration to other players around him.” 

Dillon's sister Shannon recited a poem, specially written by a friend: "No time for more hurling. No time for goodbye. Forever in our hearts. Your fame and your glory. Dillon Quirke is the name. Remember the story."

In his eulogy, Dillon's father Dan recalled his son’s dramatic entry to the world and the impact he made since.

"To my beautiful son and best friend, thank you for all the memories. On the pitch you were a hero but off the pitch you were our everything.

"He came into this world a fighter, born prematurely after a terrible car accident, but in Coolmore terms, by god he left a champion. We will miss you forever Dillon. A true legend.” 

As Dillon was lifted out of the church to be brought to the nearby cemetery, Gerry Cinnamon’s Canter struck up.

“Because the hardest of the game, Isn't even playing the game…” 

In another reality, the young men knitted together under the coffin and filing out of the churchyard would be arm-in-arm under lights singing one of Dillon’s favourite songs.

POIGNANT: A sod of grass from Semple Stadium which was buried with Dillon Quirke. Pic: Shane Brophy
POIGNANT: A sod of grass from Semple Stadium which was buried with Dillon Quirke. Pic: Shane Brophy

Instead, they went to the adjacent graveyard with their friend’s family and community and Dillon was buried with a sod of turf from the Semple Stadium pitch on which he often played and ultimately fell.

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