A HEARBROKEN Doora-Barefield mother-of-four has described her son, Fionn as a “talented young man and a well of endless potential”.
Fionn O’Brien, (20), died following a tragic accident while he was surfing in Lough Donnell beach off the coast between Doonbeg and Quilty between 6.30am and 7am on Monday.
It is understood that the former Rice College student got into some difficulty while he was in the water, his friends administered CPR and called the emergency services.
Emergency services arrived and he was airlifted by the Shannon-based Coast Guard helicopter R115 for emergency medical treatment to University Hospital Limerick (UHL). He was pronounced dead on Monday around lunch time.
In a heart-rendering tribute at his Funeral Mass in the Church of Our Lady, Fahy Hall, Roslevan, on Thursday, his mother, Michelle recalled their son, Fionn arrived promptly into their lives and their contented baby grew into the smiling calm and assured young man they knew and loved.
She told the congregation the O’Brien family are close knit. She said Fionn has been an integral part of their lives, they will miss his easy going nature, his playfulness, quiet confidence, the hard won hugs and that wonderful smile so readily given.
“Fionn was a talented young man, a well of endless potential. His future life would have been shaped and reflected his competitiveness on the pitch, his fierce determination on sand and sea.”
She spoke about his ability to slip out of a room quietly, his love of reading and his calming influence on everyone who knew him.
“Fionn was brought into the parish and was of the parish. Educated and nurtured in Knockanean National School and further developed in Rice College, he had begun his degree in Technology Management in the University of Limerick.
“A community helps in the positive growth of a youth. Fionn’s persona reflected the embrace of a strong community. Our club, friends and family helped in rounding Fionn into a talented and considerate young man. They have helped nourish friendships and Fionn lived a meaningful and happy life in their midst.”
On June 4th, Fionn’s birthday, she recalled they made an annual pilgrimage with the Ennis Sub Aqua Club for a camping trip to Ballinskelligs in Kerry.
“He was treated royally by everyone, he felt like a king and the ice cream tally matched his age every year.
“We thank you all for being with us on the way and being there for us today and into the future as we mourn the loss of our beautiful boy.”
Symbols of Fionn’s life were brought up at the beginning of his Funeral Mass.
They included a jersey and helmet to illustrate his sporting prowess as a dual player with St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield and a former full back with Ennis Rugby Club.
His sister, Saidhbh brought sand, pebbles and shells to represent his “White Strand Family” – mussel pools, channel jumping, tea drinking, card playing, reading, water safety week, and mobile hopping to forage for food.
His yellow lifeguard cap was also offered as Fionn was very proud to be a lifeguard and water safety instructor.
Surf life saving was one of his passions. He was looking forward to his coastal summer with his surf friends and other lifeguards.
Fionn made many friends from his time in Rice College and Knockanean National School and his sporting life. He met them regularly in person and often on line where he played very vocally with his friends for hours.
FOB, as he was affectionately, was also a proud member of the Doora Barefield parish and was privileged to don his county colours in Croke Park when Clare won the All-Ireland senior hurling title in 2013.
The congregation was told Kerry was the second county in his heart, and he enjoyed summers of fun with his cousins and lively family celebrations. In fact, it was a “home away from home” where he was hugely loved.
In his homily, Ennis Parish Priest, Fr Tom Ryan, started with the words “the wind and the sea obey”.
Fr Ryan told the congregation he is one of the beneficiaries of the Clare lifeguard service because he swims regularly in Seafield during the summer.
On his way home, he always calls into the Star of the Sea Church in Quilty, and the words “the wind and the sea obey” are etched in front of the altar.
As a priest, he admitted he found celebrating a Funeral Mass for a young person the most difficult part of his ministry.
“It simply doesn’t make sense. I didn’t know Fionn, but I have a picture of a young man who lived life and every moment of life.
“Today Fionn was brought back into this church where his mam and dad brought him when he began his life journey for his baptism.”
He said they were faced with the grim reality of burying a son, brother, nephew, friend, neighbour, classmate, classmate and colleague.
Commenting on the practice of storytelling, he said his parents and siblings have shared some of Fionn’s stories with people in recent days.
Fr Ryan was joined by Fr John Campion, the chaplain at the University of Limerick, where Fionn was due to go into second year of Technology Management in September.
On Monday, Fr Ryan recalled a cloud of devastating grief descended on the parish of Doora Barefield, Ennis, Clare, and on so many young people who knew or were part of Fionn’s life.
“I have heard very kind and generous words about Fionn over the last few days.
Simply summed up, he was a good young man, a swimmer, lifeguard, water enthusiast and an accomplished hurler and footballer with his club St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield.
“There are occasions in life when no words seem appropriate, when we enter total sadness and desolation, when we are numbed and speechless.
Since news broke last Monday about the untimely death of Fionn, that is exactly how everyone in the parish of Doora Barefield, Ennis, Clare and Rice College Community have felt.”
Fr Ryan extended sympathy and support of the local community to his parents, Pat and Michelle, brothers, Conor, Niall and sister, Saidhbh.
“Fionn’s death has sent shock waves through a community of people. As a lifeguard, Fionn had dedicated his summers to be available to save and protect lives so that all of us can enjoy the beauty of our beaches and lakes in this county.
“It is most tragic that it was by the same waters that he patrolled that he lost his own life on Monday morning last.
Back in the nineties before Fionn was born, Fr Ryan recalled there was a band called Kings X and a line in one of their songs said: “There is life and there is death, and the difference between either one is a single breadth”.
He said the love of his parents and family for Fionn is evident not just in the tears shed in recent days but in their extraordinary devotion and closeness to each other.
“The humanity and spirituality we saw in Fionn is part of your legacy. Your family and Fionn has enriched the Doora Barefield community and I want to thank you. May you always take pride in his memory.”
Fionn’s funeral cortege left his residence on Thursday morning for Mass at 11am in Church of Our Lady, Fahy Hall, Roslevan. Burial took place afterwards in Drumcliffe Cemetery.
As a mark of respect O’Connell’s Medical Hall, Abbey Street, Ennis was closed on Thursday.