Talented sportsman Niall O’Brien, who died a week ago following an alleged assault in Greece, was remembered at his funeral mass Monday, as a “loyal, witty, warm, rogue” who left his family and friends with a “treasury of love”.
The 21-year-old from Castletroy, Limerick, and Broadford, Co Clare, was “at the centre of fun, having it, and creating it”, his aunt Pauline said.
Several hundred mourners looked on in silence as Mr O’Brien’s coffin was shouldered into Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Milford, Limerick, draped in the jerseys of several sporting clubs for whom he played.
Friends from school, college, and sports clubs, in Monaleen, Castletroy and Broadford performed guards of honour as the cortège travelled the short distance from Mr O’Brien’s home in Castletroy to the church.
Loved ones placed symbols of his life, including a family photograph; his hurley; a collage of photos of him and his friends; a deck of cards; and a school book, beside his coffin.
Mr O’Brien, who was to enter his final year of studies in Financial Maths, at the University of Limerick, was holidaying on the Greek island Ios, along with a group of friends, when he was the victim of an alleged fatal assault on August 30th.
Fr John Campion told those gathered at today’s mass, “the death of a young person is always distressing, and the death of a son, in their prime of life, is overwhelming”.
“Words are inadequate, there are no easy answers, no cheap consolation, no satisfactory soundbites to soften the pain of loss and grief; Pious platitudes ring hollow as we are reminded today, that life is short.”
'Joy and happiness'
Fr Campion described Mr O’Brien as “a legend, who brought joy and happiness to others”.
Family and friends shed tears of joy and devastation as they remembered “the entertainer” who loved “the craic”, and who was a “protector and spokesman” for his siblings.
One of his close friends, who had stayed on in Greece until his body was repatriated home last weekend, offered: “Niall was a huge personality, he lit up a room with his trademark smile and infectious laugh; he was that type of rogue, who everyone loved.”
Mike O’Brien, the deceased’s father, broke down paying tribute to his beloved “Niallo” who he shared a special bond and passion for sport.
“Even though Niall was only 21 years old when he died last Monday in Greece, he has left our family a wonderful legacy of love and joy,” said Mr O’Brien.
From lifting hurling cups and golf trophies with Casteltroy College and Castletroy Golf Club in Limerick, to “his greatest achievement”, winning the U21 County Hurling Championship with Broadford GAA in Clare in 2019, Niall O’Brien had been part of a loyal band of sporting brothers in both counties, his father added.
“Unfortunately, Niall will never get the opportunity of realising his ambitions, that is profoundly sad for us, but during the years he was with us, Niall lived a happy and fulfilled life, we loved him greatly, and we will miss him terribly.”
Mr O’Brien’s coffin was shouldered from the church to his final resting place in Broadford, Co Clare, as See You Again, a song by Wiz Khalifa, played out.