Aghada turns out in force to say goodbye to Kieran O’Connor

Family and friends carry the remains of former Cork and Aghada footballer Kieran O'Connor into St Erasmus church, Aghada. Pictures: Eddie O'Hare

You could hardly blame the man in the truck for rolling down the window to ask if there was a match on.

Cars were parked up, covering the grass verges facing the seafront either side of Rostellan, and the crowd facing the causeway was being managed by stewards in high-vis jackets. Usually the reliable markers of a championship game in a country venue, on Friday they indicated a far sadder fixture.

The crowd was there to say goodbye to Kieran O’Connor.

The former Cork and Aghada footballer passed away last Wednesday, and his neighbours and friends came out in numbers on Friday to see him pass one more time. There were white and green Aghada flags - and Cork colours - hanging from windows along the street, and here and there in the crowd a fleece or tracksuit top in the club colours.

Cork players lead the funeral cortege through Aghada.
Cork players lead the funeral cortege through Aghada.

Conversation in the crowd was muted enough as it was, but just after half two the talk stopped completely as car headlights could be seen slowly descending the hill through the Rostellan woods and onto the causeway itself. The cortege was coming.

The crowd began to move, as people left their doorways and cars and came to the edge of the footpath; those sitting on the low sea wall stood and moved onto the grass edging the main road.

When the hearse rolled down to the intersection where the causeway and the main road meet, it paused. There was a green and white flag on the coffin, and the flower arrangement on one side spelt out DADDY.

Kieran O
Kieran O'Connor's funeral cortege heading into Farsid/Rostellan.

It reminded this writer of a previous visit to the locality, in March of last year. A community walk had been organised by the club to support Kieran, and the turnout was huge, with old teammates and opponents alike present in numbers to lend a hand.

On that occasion, his clubmate - and manager with Cork - Conor Counihan said he had seen that kind of support “very few times in my lifetime... It would certainly give you renewed faith in people if you had any doubts. You’d like to see more of it.”

That day was a tribute to remember. So was today.

Clubmate and All-Ireland-winning Cork manager Conor Counihan at the funeral.
Clubmate and All-Ireland-winning Cork manager Conor Counihan at the funeral.

A good deal of the recent commentary about sport - and restarting sport, and the complications associated with restarting sport - could be filed under the heading, ‘distractions trivial but welcome in the circumstances’.

Friday in Aghada belonged to a different category, one absolutely central to the existence of an organisation. It was an expression of love and solidarity for one of your own when that kind of expression is needed most.

If a club isn’t there for that, what is it there for?

Gifts are carried into St Erasmus Church, Aghada.
Gifts are carried into St Erasmus Church, Aghada.

Back at the car, the man who parked next to me wasn’t interested in giving his name when I asked.

“I didn’t know Kieran personally,” he said in an accent that didn’t sound native to east Cork.

“I just wanted to pay my respects.”

He was in good company.

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