'Life is fragile' | 

GAA world mourns Tipperary hurler Dillon Quirke after sudden death

The funeral cortege, led by garda motorcycle outriders, was flanked by a guard of honour by Tipperary senior hurlers in the Premier County's famous blue-and-gold, Clonoulty senior and juvenile teams in their green-and-gold colours as well as the Kilruane-MacDonagh's team that Dillon and Clonoulty were playing when he fell ill.

Clonoulty-Rossmore Team mates of Dillon Quirke team carry his remains to St John the Bapist church in Clonoulty. Photo: Frank McGrath

The hearse carrying the remains of Dillon Quirke passes by a guard of Honour of Clonoulty GAA junior players. Photo: Frank McGrath

Members of the senior Tipperary hurling team carry the remains of Dillon Quirke followed by family and friends into St John the Bapist church in Clonoulty. Photo: Frank McGrath

Ralph RiegelIndependent.ie

Teak-tough hurlers fought back tears as the Gaelic world gathered to honour a fallen Tipperary sporting warrior.

The great and the good of the Gaelic world gathered to pay tribute to Tipperary hurling star Dillon Quirke (24) as a proud community rallied to support his heartbroken family.

Hundreds gathered at Clonoulty's Church of St John the Baptist for the 12 noon Requiem Mass of the former Tipperary minor, U-20 and senior star.

Dillon collapsed during a club match at Semple Stadium in Thurles last Friday evening between his club, Clonoulty-Rossmore, and Kilruane MacDonaghs. Despite desperate efforts to revive him, he was pronounced dead a short time later.

Clonoulty-Rossmore parish priest Fr Thomas Hearne received the remains into the church as they were accorded a special guard of honour from Clonoulty GAA pitch.

The funeral cortege, led by garda motorcycle outriders, was flanked by a guard of honour by Tipperary senior hurlers in the Premier County's famous blue-and-gold, Clonoulty senior and juvenile teams in their green-and-gold colours as well as the Kilruane-MacDonagh's team that Dillon and Clonoulty were playing when he fell ill.

Hundreds marched behind the cortege to the church - many visibly weeping.

Several teammates of Dillon had to be comforted by friends and family.

The coffin was draped in the Clonoulty and Tipperary jerseys and, as it was carried into the church, was adorned with a hurley and sliothar.

The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Dr Kieran O'Reilly, who is also the patron of the GAA, was unable to attend but sent a special message of sympathy to the Quirke family and the Clonoulty community. "Dillon's death has been a cruel blow for his family, the GAA, his club and his entire community," he said.

Members of the senior Tipperary hurling team carry the remains of Dillon Quirke followed by family and friends into St John the Bapist church in Clonoulty. Photo: Frank McGrath

Fr Hearne said the tragedy had shocked the tightknit community and left it trapped almost in a time warp.

"When the news spread last Friday night of Dillon's sudden and untimely death it really seems like our parish community here in Clonoulty-Rossmore has been frozen in time," he said.

"There has been such a huge outpouring of sadness and a huge outpouring of grief not just here in our local community but also in our surrounding parishes, throughout the country and further afield.

"People are really stunned - we are all finding is very difficult to believe that this has really happened.

"On Saturday evening when we once again gathered as a community in the local (GAA) grounds - where we might say it was almost a second home to Dillon - as we gathered for that vigil, the silence was almost deafening.

"There was not a sound despite such a huge crowd of people being gathered.

"People were together - sharing their pain, people were together - sharing their loss.

"But as well as that they were sharing their time and they were showing they cared.

"That sadness, that loss, that sense of shock continues today as we gather in this church to celebrate Dillon's funeral Mass in his home parish - a parish he was proud to represent so many times.

"We have come here to celebrate Dillon's life, we have come here to mourn a great loss but we have also come together as a people of faith to commend him back to God's care and love."

The hearse carrying the remains of Dillon Quirke passes by a guard of Honour of Clonoulty GAA junior players. Photo: Frank McGrath

Fr Hearne said it was remarkable the way people from all over Ireland, and across the world, had rallied to support the heartbroken family and community.

He said it exemplified the very best of the Irish community in the way others had rallied to support a community in heartbreak.

"Thousands have passed through the (Quirke) family home and the community over the past few days," he said.

Fr Hearne said the Clonoulty community, the GAA, Tipperary and Ireland had lost "a very valued and special friend".

But he said that loss paled in comparison to what the Quirke family had lost.

"To Dan, Hazel, Shannon and Kellie, you have lost a valued, respected and much loved brother and son...the great love that he (Dillon) had for you.

"As Hazel said, we loved him and he loved us - we all did the best we possibly could for each other.

"Life is fragile, life is precious and we need to make the most of life - just like Dillon made the most of his great life.

"It is amazing the way a parish comes together when we need each other. Maybe they are things we take for granted.

"As someone said at the vigil the other night, he (Dillon) was up there (at the pitch) just the other night, pucking the ball away."

The Offertory gifts included a Tipperary-made hurley, Dillon's trademark red helmet, a Clonoulty jersey, a Tipperary jersey, his lucky pants, concert tickets, his 'Boss' apron and a photo with his friends.

Mr Quirke had bravely spoken two years ago of the cardiac problem he was diagnosed with in 2019.

The young hurler suffered from myocarditis which is an inflammation of the heart muscle.

The diagnosis came after he collapsed twice and had to take a lengthy break from all aspects of his beloved hurling in 2019/20.

He spoke in 2020 of being "all 100pc now" - and last season his form was such that he was being hailed as the bedrock of both club and county sides for the next ten years.

The young man made his senior debut for the Premier County in 2020 after emerging as one of their most exciting underage talents with All-Ireland wins at minor and U-20 level.

Mourners were led by his parents, Dan and Hazel, his siblings, Shannon and Kellie, as well as his extended family.

Mr Quirke's uncle-in-law is Declan Ryan, the former Tipperary manager.

The young man's uncle, Andrew Fryday, is chairman of Clonoulty-Rossmore. He hailed the young man as "a leader on and off the field" and admitted locals expected him to be the lynchpin of the club side for the next decade.

Leading the GAA world was president Larry McCarthy while the funeral was attended by virtually every member of the Tipperary senior and U-20 panels, led by Tipperary captain Ronan Maher.

President Michael D Higgins was represented by his aide-de-camp Commandant Deirdre Newell while Taoiseach Micheál Martin was represented by his aide-de-camp Commandant Claire Mortimer.

Rev Adrian Huston, who is related to the Quirke family, represented the Church of Ireland.

Other notable sporting and political figures in attendance included former Irish football star Niall Quinn, former GAA president and Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly, Tipperary County Council Chairman Councillor Roger Kennedy, as well as Tipperary County Board and Munster Council officers.

Following Requiem Mass, Mr Quirke's remains were brought by a guard of honour-flanked cortege to Clonoulty cemetery.

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