A CORK boy who loved Superman is being celebrated as a hero in his own right after succumbing to illness at the age of just 16.
The heartbroken family of Cathal O’Neill from Cathedral Rd is encouraging mourners to wear red this Friday as a nod to his passion for the DC character.
From the moment he was born, Cathal was destined to be a hero and had 21 birthday parties before the age of two.
Doctors initially believed he would not live to see his first birthday. Rather than dwell on the potential heartbreak, his mother Pauline threw him a party complete with cake and guests every week to make up for the occasions he would miss.
At 21 weeks, she put an end to the weekly birthday parties in the knowledge that maybe Cathal was going to make it after all.
Cathal, who was a wheelchair user, packed in a great deal in his 16 years. He was even able to offer some advice to pop sensation One Direction when they were just starting out. The group had met with him while visiting Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Niall Horan, in particular, was very taken with the Northsider who gave him lessons in perfecting his “Cork accent”.
Later, Cathal would go on to have his own band known as Carlitos, the Fat Man and the Angel. He had formed the group with his sister, singer Ciara, and father Terry, who accompanied them on guitar.
Mum Pauline said his loves in life were music and “his school family” from Our Lady of the Divine Child.
His other hobbies included his YouTube channel “The Cathal O’Neill Show” and making things with devoted dad Terry.
“They had a love for making things,” Pauline added. “Cathal dreamt it and Terry made it no matter what. He taught me to be brave, stay strong, and never give up.”
Cathal always took centre stage in life and enjoyed success on the amateur drama circuit. One of his best-remembered performances was as the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland performed by the youth theatre group Breaking Barriers.
The production was organised under the umbrella of the Crann centre which provides services to people with spina bifida, hydro- cephalus, neuromuscular conditions, and wheelchair users.
The teenager is well remembered for his adventurous spirit. His dad Terry had modified a camper van to make it wheelchair accessible so they could see more of the world together.
Cathal was the adored brother of Sarah, Terry, and Ciara. He is also survived by his mum Pauline, dad Terry, and grandparents Vincent, Terry, and Mary. His funeral Mass will take place in the North Cathedral on Friday, in line with Covid-19 safety measures.