After battling with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) since 2012, former Antrim captain, Anto Finnegan, has passed away at the age of 48.
In a newspaper death notice, Mrs Finnegan says: “We have never known such sorrow. No matter what I do I will never let a day go by without a thought of you.”
His 16-year-old daughter Ava, who cut her hair for charity and raised over £3,000 for The MND Association in NI last year, said that she will miss their “laughs and smiles.”
“You were the bestest friend and daddy anyone can ask for. I love you to the moon and back.”
Son Conall, age 21, said there were no words to “describe how we feel”.
“Your memory will live on through mummy, Ava and me, as well as all the people you have inspired. We all strive to be like you every day.”
The west Belfast sportsman played for St Paul’s GAA club and Antrim, winning three County Championship titles.
The GAA defender played his last match for Antrim in 2005, and went on to become the founder of deterMND in 2013, which has since raised in excess of £400,000 for MND research.
Paul O’Kane commented on the facebook post from St Paul’s GAA, where over 500 people paid tribute to Anto, he said: “Anto was an honest, straight talking warm gent of a man. He was a former work colleague who was very talented, supportive and garnered respect from those he met. He packed a lot in during his short life and will be fondly remembered by so many. RIP Anto.”
Another fellow GAA player commented: “Sincere condolences to the family and friends of Anto Finnegan at this very sad time. I had the pleasure of seeing him play many times for his beloved Antrim v Tyrone in the McKenna Cup and Championship.”
Joe Quinn, another club and county team-mate, said: “People think of him for his campaigning work, which was brilliant, but to me Anto just always stayed Anto.
“He was a braver man than I ever was when he got his diagnosis. He never let it define him. He was just a great fellow.”
Anto’s funeral Mass will take place at noon on Wednesday in Christ the Redeemer Chapel, Lagmore.