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Tributes pour in for much loved Clare lifeguard

THE tragic death of a young Doora-Barefield lifeguard while he was surfing off the West Clare coast has sent shock waves throughout the county.
Glowing tributes have been paid from Clare lifeguards, Doora-Barefield GAA club, Ennis RFC and others who experienced a cloud of “devastating grief” following the passing of Fionn O’Brien, Knockanean, Tulla Road, Ennis, on Monday.
Ennis Parish Priest, Fr Tom Ryan, recalled last Monday a cloud of “devastating grief” descended on the Doora-Barefield parish, the town of Ennis, communities throughout Clare and on many young people who knew or were part of Fionn’s life.
“I have heard very kind and genuine words about Fionn over the last few days. He was a good young man, a swimmer, lifeguard, water enthusiast and an accomplished hurler and footballer with his beloved club St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield.
“There are occasions in life when no words seem appropriate, when we enter total sadness and desolation.
“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 in family, college, school, the lifeguard community and so many other organisations.”

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.
“It is most tragic that it was by the same waters that he patrolled that he lost his own life on Monday. The support of family, friends and community is there to ease the pain and share the burden of loss that people are feeling at this time.”
Brendan McGrath of Clare Water Safety said local lifesavers were shocked and saddened at Fionn’s untimely death.
Mr McGrath described Fionn as a very loyal team player, who was very dedicated to his job and his employer.
FOB, as he was affectionately known was a member of a number of junior and senior Clare All-Ireland Lifeguard championship winning teams over the years.
Fionn was a surf lifesaving competitor, water safety instructor and local authority lifeguard for the last three years.
He competed in many provincial and national competitions before proceeding to senior ranks. A man of tremendous speed and athletic ability, he used his skills in the sprint and beach flags events, where he helped Clare to national success.
He also anchored several winning relay teams. Having completed his beach lifeguard training, he worked as a lifeguard employed by Clare County Council at the county’s lakes and beaches. As an instructor, he passed on his knowledge to the next generation of lifesavers in White Strand, Miltown Malbay, and at many water safety weeks.
A Clare County Council spokesman stated, “it is with deep sadness and regret that staff received the news of the death of our friend and colleague, Fionn after an untimely accident.
“Fionn was a lifeguard and had worked at various beach locations in the county since 2019. Fionn was very dedicated to his role as a lifeguard, had a great team spirit and a passion for working outdoors.”
A Book of Condolence has been opened both online and in hardcopy at Áras Contae an Chláir. The online version is available at clarecorporateservices.submit.com/
University of Limerick president, Professor Kerstin Mey has paid tribute to Fionn, who was due to go into second year of Technology Management in September.
Professor Mey wrote in an email to staff and students on Tuesday that, “It is with much sadness today that I must inform you of the heart-breaking passing of a member of our UL student community, Fionn O’Brien”.
Doora-Barefield GAA club were also shocked and saddened to learn about the death of their club man, team mate and friend.
Fionn was regarded as a very talented dual player with the club blessed with great skill and lightning speed.
Even at such a young age, club mentors felt he had already contributed hugely, with the promise of a lot more to come.
He had won a county U-14 Hurling Shield medal in 2015, U-16 county hurling and minor football medal in 2018. His goal to draw the U-16 hurling final in 2017 four minutes into injury time to bring the game against Clarecastle to a replay will always be spoken of and reminisced about.
St Joseph’s defeated the Magpies in the second game.
Last Friday, in what ultimately proved to be his last game for the club Fionn scored a goal for their Intermediate hurlers from wing forward just before the end of their ultimate victory over Whitegate.
He came on as a sub for the Intermediate hurling team when they suffered a narrow one point reversal in the county final against Broadford in 2018 when he was still a minor.
Tom Duggan of St Joseph’s said Fionn will be a huge loss to the club and an even bigger loss to his family.
Club public relations officer, Vinny Sheedy, recalled Fionn played U-21 hurling and football for the club last year and also played in the forwards for the Intermediate team.
“He was a very bright prospect. He had great speed and was lightning quick. He was a great athlete. He was very popular with younger players.”
Ennis Rugby Football Club also mourns the loss of their clubmate and friend.
Fionn joined the club as a minis U-10 player and went on to be an outstanding full-back on a very successful underage team, played up to U-15 level, went playing hurling for a period and then came back to feature at under 18 and a half.
Coach, Lorcan Hoyne recalled Fionn was a very talented team player, who featured on teams that won Munster competitions including the North Munster Conference at U-14 and U-15 level and reached a North Munster Club final.
“He was quiet but was a great lad to train and was always eager to learn. He was a great team mate with lots of friends in the squad.
“They were a very tight bunch who stuck together. He was a natural sportsman who excelled at lots of sports.
“He was a pleasure to train and coach. I coached him up to U-15 level. News of his death came as a terrible shock. His family have been involved with the club for many years. His older brother, Niall played with the club, while Pat attended games on a regular basis.
“His team mates have been communicating and trying to support each other.”

by Dan Danaher

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