Monday 25 March 2019

Huge crowds turn out as Wexford GAA giant John Harrington laid to rest

A guard of honour from the Sarsfields leads the way as John Harrington leaves Bride Street Church on the journey to his final resting place in Crosstown
A guard of honour from the Sarsfields leads the way as John Harrington leaves Bride Street Church on the journey to his final resting place in Crosstown
The late John Harrington

Pádraig Byrne

Former teammates, draped in the purple and gold of Wexford, lined the way alongside the hearse at Bride Street Church on Tuesday afternoon as they lined out one last time alongside the late John Harrington (51).

John's coffin emerged from a packed church, decked out in the Wexford colours and the red and yellow of his beloved Sarsfields, a club which he devoted his life to. His impact on the club over many years was evident, as a huge guard of honour stretched out in front of the hearse; both young and old sporting the Sars colours.

John's colleagues from An Post also stood watch on the route in their green uniforms making it a colourful, albeit tragic scene.

As the funeral service got under way, a swelling sea of mourners filled the huge church and spilled out onto the aisles and out the main door. Rarely could you expect to see a church so full, but in many ways it was a measure of the man; a man who had a huge impact on his local community.

Showing bravery that was surely inherited from their late father, John's daughters Emma (20) and Ciara (17) both spoke to get the funeral service under way.

They told the congregation how John had taken on the roles of mother and father since the passing of their mother Tina 12 years ago following a battle with cancer.

'We've been absolutely overwhelmed by the respect shown to our Dad in recent days,' Emma said. 'He did everything for us. He cared for Mam and then he took on both roles of Mam and Dad.'

Ciara went on to speak of her father's great sense of humour - one of his most endearing features.

'He was only too happy to strut his stuff on the dancefloor,' she recalled. 'It was embarrassing at the time, but that was the man he was. He had a great sense of humour.'

'He was the best of Dads and the best of men,' Ciara concluded. 'We'll stay strong for you Dad and we'll try to make you as proud of us as we are of you.'

John's brother Paul spoke of his successes on the pitch and in life.

'We always promised each other that if we got a county title, we'd find each other,' Paul said.

'Unfortunately, we never managed it with the football,but I remember when he won the county title with the Harriers in 2001, I made a beeline for him. He spotted me through the crowd, smiled at me and said "C'mon brother".

'It was at that point I realised he'd been hanging around with Larry O'Gorman too long!'

Paul outlined some of the great rivalries that John enjoyed on the football pitch and made special mention of the late Scott Doran, a former teammate of John's who only passed away at the turn of the year.

'Just months ago we lost Scott Doran,' Paul said. 'John and Scott used to room together when Scott first started out with the county team. The only thing I can think of is that they're putting a team together up there and Scott is up in the forwards and needed someone to play the ball into him from midfield!'

Paul spoke of how John had been born in London in 1967 and moved back to Wexford with the family in 1970. Initially starting school with a cockney accent, he said it was quickly 'knocked out of him' in the CBS!

John worked at the Talbot Hotel and Celtic Linen before going on to work at Sola Lenses for a number of years where he made great friends, before moving on to his latest role as a postman with An Post.

'He loved the job,' said Paul. 'He got that many cups of tea on his rounds, it's amazing he got anything delivered at all!'

It was noted that John met his first love, Tina, at a young age. She fit the bill in many ways, coming from a Sarsfields family and living locally. The pair fell head over heels and married in 1997. They made a home together at Parnell Street and later Hayestown and welcomed their two daughters.

Paul spoke of the torrid time his brother endured after Tina was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. After a four year battle, she passed away and John was forced to raise his daughters by himself. That was until he met his partner Sandra and her family.

'He struggled,' Paul said. 'He survived only for his two girls. That was until Sandra came along with Niall, Kate and Leanne. I remember saying to Billy Dodd, we've got the old John back. He was his old mischievous self.'

Paul said that they were all now left with a 'massive hole' in their lives following John's untimely passing.

It was noted that Fr Aodhán Marken had overseen John's wedding to Tina, their children's christenings, Tina's funeral and now he completed the journey with John's funeral mass on Tuesday.

He described John as an 'extraordinary parent' and 'one of the most honourable, nicest and decent men'.

'He was always there,' he continued. 'He was that phone call in a time of need; that advice from the sideline; a trusted team mate; a postman who saw his role as more than just delivering letters.'

'The lasting memory of his goodness and decency must outlast the memory of these difficult days.'

Just as John's coffin was carried from the church, the heavens opened as former teammates, work colleagues and club-mates lined the route to complete the final leg of John's journey to St Ibar's Cemetery in Crosstown.

Several leading figures in the Wexford GAA world walked behind the hearse as the county bid a fond farewell to one of its footballing greats and a man who will retain a firm place in the heart and memories of his local community.

Wexford People

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