CLONMEL'S Jack Downey, the 19-year-old who tragically lost his life on Monday after falling ill at a music festival in Mitchelstown on Friday, was described as a “true leader” on and off the field.
The unbearable grief and the sense of enormous shock at the tragic passing of a much loved young man was evident on Monday evening in the grounds of Clonmel Og where hundreds of people gathered to pray for Jack and his devastated parents Johnny and Elaine.
“It was an incredibly sad occasion. It was intended to hold a mass to pray for his recovery but then Jack passed away on Monday afternoon and we decided to go ahead with the Mass to pray for the family” said Sean Quirke, president of the Clonmel Og club where Jack was a member from a very young age.
“When I heard the news I almost fell down with the shock. Everybody is so upset and in a state of shock,” said Mr Quirke.
He described Jack as a wonderful young man who made a huge impact within the club on and off the field.
“Jack was a true leader. It was an absolute pleasure to be in his company. He was a great leader on the field and we are all very proud of his achievements as a player but Jack also made an enormous contribution to the club off the field,” said Mr Quirke.
He said that Jack enjoyed coaching younger players, refereeing at juvenile blitzes and repairing hurleys. “You would see him sweeping up the dressing rooms, he was always there to help out. He was a special young man, a gentleman, he embodied the family aspect of the club," he added.
“I called him the Jimmy McGee of the club because he had a great memory and he had all the facts about all the games, the players, the scorers even down to the time of the scores,” said the club president.
Jack won numerous South and county titles with the club and was the goalie on the successful Tipperary under 17 team that won the Celtic Challenge All Ireland in 2017.
Mr Quirke said the mass on Monday evening was of enormous help to his family, teammates and his friends .
“The huge crowd that attended gave great support to the family.J ack's parents Johnny and Elaine showed great strength to come from Cork to be there," he said .
He added that the club members were very moved by the fact that so many people from clubs throughout South Tipperary came to the Mass to show their support.
Fr. Michael Toomey said the Mass at Clonmel Og started the grieving process and he paid tribute to the officers of Clonmel Og for the sensitive and supportive manner in which they coped with organisi ng the Mass and provided a counselling process and pastoral care opportunity for the boys of Jacks age and younger.
“On Monday evening, you could feel the massive sense of shock. The Mass brought people together, young and old were crying and it was a powerful show of support to the family” said Fr. Toomey who concelebrated the Mass w hich was said by Fr.Michael Hegarty.
Mayor of Clonmel Garret Ahearn said the people of the town were devastated by the tragic loss of life of such a young popular man .
“On Monday evening, a very strong message of support went out from the entire community to the family who showed enormous courage to attend the Mass” said the Mayor of Clonmel. That support will mean an awful lot to the Downey family.
“All our thoughts and prayers are with Jack's parents and with all of his friends," he said.
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