A 29-year-old man who was seriously assaulted over the Christmas period and later died in hospital has been remembered at his requiem mass as a brave soul who as a teenager helped save the lives of people who got in to difficulty in the water.
Matt O'Neill from Glenwood in Carrigaline, Co Cork passed away on January 8 last at Cork University Hospital (CUH) with his parents Pat and Eileen at his side. He had been rendered unconscious in an assault in Carrigaline on December 28th.
At a requiem mass in the Church of the Real Presence, Curraheen Road in Cork today his father Pat said that Matt was "the body and soul" of his heartbroken family.
He said his beloved only child had enriched the life of his family.
"His name was in my phone as 'Body & Soul' - that's what came up every time he rang me. And that is what he was - our body and soul.
"During the week, one of Matt's lovely friends sent us a message and it really said it (all) about Matt. She said Matt was a real sweetheart, he was kind and caring. He was gentle.
"Matt was born to Eileen and I in Brisbane (Australia) in 1993...the three of us, almost from the minute he was born, we had a life of so many adventures."
"Swimming, surfing, kayaking, camping - (being) in the water was Matt's favourite place."
Mr O'Neill said when Matt was just thirteen years old he took part in a successful sea rescue in Co Kerry.
"One afternoon we were surfing in Derrynane in Kerry and six people were in serious trouble in the water.
"Together, Eileen, myself and Matt, we pulled the six of them out. But there was one who was in a particularly bad way and Matt took specific action going to him in the middle of the panic. Matt was 13 years old."
Fr James McSweeney told mourners at the funeral that it was a difficult day for all those who loved Matt.
"I don't need to tell you our gathering here today is dreadfully sad - we have no words today," he said.
"To Pat and Eileen we offer you our deepest and sincerest sympathies. Even though our gathering here today is very sad, we take comfort from the many happy memories that his family have of Matt."
Matt is survived by his parents, his grandmother, Josephine, uncles, aunts, cousins, relatives and friends. His family had asked that mourners make a donation to CUH in lieu of flowers. A cremation followed at the Island Crematorium in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork.
Matt incurred serious head injuries and was left unconscious in the assault. He underwent emergency surgery. However, he never regained consciousness.
Two teens have since appeared before Cork District Court in relation to the incident. They have both been charged with assault causing harm to Mr O'Neill.
Meanwhile, gardaí are continuing to appeal to anyone who may have witnesssed the assault to contact them.
Anyone who was in the area of Glenwood Estate in Carrigaline between 5pm. and 5.45pm on Wednesday, December 28th last, particularly any road users who may have camera footage (including dash cam) of the incident, is asked to contact Togher Garda Station on (021) 494 7120, the Garda Confidential Line on (1800) 666111 or any garda station.