The Glounthaune community is stunned and saddened by Martin O’Neill’s ill-timed and unexpected passing. Life doesn’t seem fair sometimes and this is one of those moments.
Martin was one of the good guys; as seen in his love for his family, his natural friendliness, his great sense of humour, his love of music, his community work and, of course, his passion for soccer and his beloved Manchester United. Martin was a soccer fanatic and was the prime motivator in promoting the game in a GAA stronghold parish.
He was also chairman of the Cork Branch of Manchester United Supporters’ club for many years and was a regular at Old Trafford season after season.
He organised visits of high-profile players to the Glounthaune parish down through the years; including Brian Robson, Brian Mc Claire, Denis Irwin, Lee Sharpe, Nicky Butt and Gary Neville.
Martin was a popular character in the parish and beyond and this was borne out by the vast crowd who attended his funeral.
Geraldine, Martin’s wife for over forty years, delivered the eulogy in an informal style and she related their journey of life with humour.
She commented on the large gathering: “Martin loved an audience and to be the centre of attention. Once again, he would be gratified by the large congregation here today and in all his gigs he never had an audience quite so large”.
Geraldine referenced when she first met Martin.
“I met ‘The Legend’ who hailed from Little Island at an Erins Own victory dinner dance at the Commodore Hotel in 1971.
“At some time during the night, I was approached by this long hair, bearded, hippy looking kind of guy dressed in a most awful green suit and I found myself sitting next to him on the bus coming home. The cheeky guy that he was then asked me for a kiss!”
Martin and Geraldine married in 1976 and they took over the running of Fitzpatrick’s Shop from Geraldine’s late mother Nora, while continuing to work their full time jobs.
Their first daughter Kerri was born two years later and Geraldine then gave up her teaching job and worked in the shop full time.
Their business progressed over the years and Geraldine highlighted Martin’s input to their financial success.
“It was he who identified the many opportunities that contributed to it, such as the old schoolhouse at Little Island which is currently known as Trafford Park, the Ellis Quarry which lay idle for many years and is now the location of some of the first “new homes” in Little Island, and the old farmhouse at Lanes’ — which he proudly named the “Elizabeth O’ Neill House” in honour of his late mother and which is now the Pepsi Cola headquarters.
Martin had many other passions in life besides football; cars, motorcycles, music, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and travel.
Geraldine said that his most memorable trip was when she surprised him on his fiftieth birthday with a visit to the home of Elvis Presley; Graceland.
He dressed in a suit that day “to pay respects to the King”.
He later said that that the hair stood on the back of his neck such was his awe at the whole experience.
He told her that it was the best day of his whole life.
“His greatest passion though was reserved for his family, particularly around his six children who he loved so dearly,” Geraldine said.
”This passion extended to his family of origin and he was a loving and generous son to his late Mam and Dad and a supportive and caring brother to his sisters Ann, Marion, Geraldine, brother John and also to his many relatives”.
Martin never lost his roots and he loved the fact that he was from Little Island.
Geraldine remarked that if asked on their travels where he came from he always responded: “I come from Little Island”.
This was often a cause of some comment between them, particularly if he got himself into trouble, and Geraldine would say “you can take the boy out of the Island but you can’t take the Island out of the boy”.
She concluded: “Martin as we bid you farewell today and take you back ‘across the tracks’ to your beloved Little Island may I say; thank you for sharing your journey on the road of life with me and you know what; it was one hell of a ride”.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.