Glowing tributes were paid to an Ogonnelloe solider at his Funeral Mass on Sunday following a tragic accident while on holidays in Spain a few weeks ago, writes Dan Danaher.
There were heart-rending scenes when Private Gerard McMahon (24) was laid to rest with full military honours in the New Cemetery, Ogonnelloe.
His sudden death came about a week after he had just returned home from a six-month tour of duty with the 63rd Infantry Group in Syria.
Speaking at his Funeral Mass, the chief celebrant, Reverend Father Paul Murphy, the chaplain to the 1st Infantry Battalion in Galway recalled how one of his friends summed up the deceased.
“One of his best friends said: ‘he didn’t say much, but you could write a book about him”.
In a moving tribute, his mother, Carmel, recalled their lives changed forever on October 15 when they got the dreaded phone call that no parents wants that their beautiful son, Ger had died.
“Ger was the light of our lives. As a young boy he was always playing with an imaginary farm imitating his father’s way of life. Trucks, tractors, cattle, cows, Ger was farming from the day he could hold a toy in his hand. While I was gone to work in Limerick, Ger loved his time in the home of Paddy and Geraldine Cosgrove.”
“Ger’s national school days were filled with hurling, music, Irish dancing, drama and friendships. Secondary school was more of a challenge, Ger was more anxious to get on with life, working on the family farm, hurling with Ogonnelloe GAA club, later with Scariff GAA club, part-time work at weekends, and during the last years he was passionate about reading.”
She recalled he enjoyed swimming daily and running in the hills of Ogonnelloe, with tremendous focus and commitment.
At St Anne’s Community College, she said they were stunned when Ger received a standing ovation from his class mates at his graduation ceremony.
His father, Pat, recalled when Ger announced he wanted to join the Irish Defence Forces his application was accepted.
“Always an early riser and a disciplined young man, Ger proved to himself and his family this was the right choice for him.
“Ger showed great strength of character, dependability, he was a great team worker with exceptional motivational skills.
“During the last ten days, Ger’s army friends travelled long distances to our home, which is testament to his commitment to the Irish Defence Forces, and his capacity to build really close friendships.”
“Carmel, Bríd and myself had an amazing week with Ger after his return from Syria – the joy of coming back on the farm, Carmel’s cooking, homecoming celebration at Killaloe Hotel and later video presentation by the fireside all about his tour in Syria.
“Gerard and Brid were always an amazing brother and sister to each other. Rest in Peace Gerard, we will love you for ever and ever.
The Irish Defence Forces were represented at his Funeral Mass by Brig General Brian Cleary, General Officer Commanding 1 Bde Lt Col Damien Murphy Officer Commanding 1 Cn Cois Lt Col Frank Flannery Ofifcer Commanding 63rd Inf Group UNDOF
In his homily, Fr Murphy, who thanked Fr Dariusz Plasek, for allowing him to be the chief celebrant, said the death of someone so young left people “overwhelmed” by grief and loss.
While Ger packed a huge amount in to his 24 years, Fr Murphy stressed his family was the most important thing for him.
“Home was where his heart was, probably the milking parlour. That is where he went we he arrived back from Syria. Ger was always there when a helping hand was needed. ‘What is next dad, he would say.’
“Home was where he learned about love and life. Ger was a good soldier who had good intentions of progressing his career. He was the first one to start a task while others were discussing how it would be done.
“He was as fit as a fiddle, swimming, hurling, running, playing rugby, challenging others in the gym. He was ready for anything and admired everyone.
“Ger was dependable, trustworthy and never spoke ill of anyone. His charitable nature running races and charity events touched the lives of many people.”
He said his physical condition was akin to any action man who would be proud to possess.
The Guard of Honour involved 30 members from an Chéad Chathlán Coisithe 1st Infantry Batallion, Ogonnelloe GAA and local residents.
The coffin draped in the tricolour was brought into the St Mary’s Church by eight members of an Chéad Chathlán Coisithe 1st Infantry Batallion, while there was ten pall bearers and seven in
the firing party from the same batallion.
As a mark of respect, the Junior “A” hurling final involving Ogonnelloe was postponed.
Donations were requested for ONE – Organistaion of National Ex service Personel, Ogonnelloe GAA Club, Pieta House and Croí Hospice.
Gerard will be sadly missed by his heartbroken parents, Pat and Carmel, his cherished sister Bríd, aunts, uncles, cousins, extended McMahon and Mullin family and of course his military family, his wide circle of friends and neighbours.
A video of the funeral was posted on Ogonnelloe Parish facebook page which can be viewed here