The village of Claudy fell silent on Thursday as hundreds of mourners packed St Patrick’s Church to say a final farewell to “one of the parish’s finest young men”, the “always smiling” Conall Kerrigan.
Loved ones, friends and the GAA community gathered for the funeral of the 25-year-old whose sudden tragic death has left the close knit village “saddened and in shock”.
The blue, navy and white colours of John Mitchel’s GAC, Claudy, stood out among the huge crowd of mourners gathered outside the church to witness the poignant scenes of his team mates who carried Conall’s coffin and formed a guard of honour.
The popular young John Mitchel’s GAC footballer, described by Claudy Parish Priest Fr David O’Kane as “a gentleman”, had been on a a night out in Derry with team mates when he went missing. Police have since said that no crime took place in relation to his death.
“Last month when Aaron Devlin, a young footballer from Ballinderry Shamrocks died, the club chairman said a heavy dark cloud had descended on Ballinderry. This week that heavy dark cloud has shifted and hangs over us, especially over the Kerrigan family, John Mitchel’s GAC and the entire community of Claudy,” said Fr O’Kane. “We have lost one of our finest young men, and that cuts deep in any parish.”
Fr O’Kane spoke of the many glowing tributes to Conall, and how so many has spoken so eloquently about him over the past week out of “duty to a young man who graced their lives and enriched them so that they felt compelled to tell the world about their friend, their player, their cousin”.
“We have lost one of our finest young men, and that cuts deep in any parish.”Claudy Parish Priest: Fr David O’Kane
“You too have many stories about Conall because as someone said to me ‘he had a presence’. He had a presence that was life giving; he had a presence that lit up the company; a presence that was fun loving; a presence that lifted spirits; a presence that was gentle and easy going and a presence that lived a very short life to the full,” said Fr O’Kane. “Conall was always happy; a gentleman. He lived life with a smile on his face. His friends thought the world of him and he was always up for the craic. People have told me about his generosity in that he did many plumbing jobs round the village and never sought payment. His passions in life were for cars; his Gaelic football and Liverpool soccer team. In fact last Monday when Conall’s friends gathered to watch the Arsenal/Liverpool match they all wore Liverpool tops as a gesture of solidarity with their deceased friend. To get any ardent Manchester United supporter to wear a Liverpool top shows the power and the popularity of the man.”
Fr O’Kane spoke of a recent family occasion when Conall’s brother Sean got married.
“The wedding took place two weeks ago and I believe Conall, as bestman, made a very emotional speech which was in line with his personality as the family celebrated a great occasion. When I met Margaret, their granny on Monday she said ‘two weeks ago our first grandchild was married and this week we will bury our first grandchild’,” recalled Fr O’Kane.
Fr O’Kane said Conall’s untimely death served as a reminder that “life is unpredictable” and “that each day is a gift, not a right”.
Offering sympathy to Conall’s parents John and Mary; to his brother Sean and wife Stacey, and his younger brother Paul, Fr O’Kane said: “The only regret they should have about Conall’s life is that it was far too short but they know that he will remain forever young.”
Fr O’Kane also extended sympathies to the Kerrigan and O’Hara families, and to Conall’s friends, neighbours and team mates.
“May God grant Conall Kerrigan eternal rest,” added Fr O’Kane.
The funeral mass was concelebrated with Fr. Michael McCaughey.