THE STREETS fell to a silent standstill as Michael O’Donnell was taken on his final journey through his beloved Glenties today.
Aged 67, Michael ‘Jack’ passed away on Saturday afternoon following an illness.
The Dr Maguire Cup – won by Naomh Conaill in the last senior football championship final played in Donegal, in 2019 – rested at the altar of St Connell’s Church.
So many times over the decades, Michael’s camera flashed as a triumphant cavalcade beeped through those same streets – not least on that late October night just over 18 months ago when Ciarán Thompson carried home Donegal football’s greatest prize.
Photographers gathered this morning at familiar points, but the lens caps remained locked this time.
Many of the same people were in many of the same places, but the mood told of a mournful occasion.
Only the hum of a drone overhead could be heard over the spits of rain beginning to drop.
As the hearse carrying Michael’s remains, flanked by executive committee members of the Naomh Conaill club and followed by his loving family, turned onto the Glen Road, heads bowed.
Naomh Conaill’s heroes of the past, winners of the present and tomorrow’s hopefuls all united in a physically distant guard of honour for one of their own.
Former colleagues of the media filed in to bid as fitting a farewell as Covid-19 could permit, just knowing how he’d have mocked the awkwardness that was surely apparent in our attempts.
Iniskeel PP Fr Gerard Cunningham told how Michael’s profession and his life aligned: “They show a love of place, of parish, of county and of GAA,” he said at the Funeral Mass, which was concelebrated by Rev Adrian Gavigan CC Dungloe and Fr Seán Ó Gallchóir PP Gortahork, the noted Donegal GAA chronicler.
The former Donegal manager Jim McGuinness, a close friend, was among those by the roadside, just yards from where flares light the night sky in 2012 when Sam Maguire arrived.
John Gildea, a soldier of 2005 – when Naomh Conaill crossed into greatness to win their first senior title – sombrely stood. He was one of several former Donegal players there, though the rare old times of now confined the catch-ups to a knowing nod.
Glenties has become used to its moments of glory and they’ve all – from their own senior breakthrough, via 2012 and its dizzying summer, through to the underage success – been captured by Michael’s camera.
Today, they had a procession of a different sort.
A camera, a notepad and pen and a watch were among the items alongside Dr Maguire.
“Naomh Conaill and Donegal were very close to his heart and he took such pride in letting people know where he came from,” Sinead, one of Michael’s daughters, said.
Such was the pride in and love of his job, Gildea remarked at the weekend that Michael ‘never worked a day in his life’. It was a labour of love.
Fr Cunningham said: “His was a life possessed of positivity for the local, for the domestic, for the heroic of Naomh Conaill under thirteens as much as much as for the inexorable glories of Croke Park.”
To his family, Fr Cunningham said he was ‘the one that led the way being the eldest’.
A sister, Siobhan, watched the Funeral Mass online from New York; another pointer to the cold ways of our world.
He was predeceased by his father Jack and survived by his mother Nora, partner Bernie, daughters Deirdre, Fiona, Sinead, son Kieran, brothers John, Dessie, Gerard and Brendan, sisters Ita, Mary, Theresa and Siobhan, and a wide circle of family, friends and colleagues.
His was, Fr Cunningham said, ‘an enduring and intense life’.
It was a life that enriched those who encountered him.
Even today’s silence spoke that in volumes.Tags: