As the hearse carrying Conor Morgan neared the corner of Barrack Street and St Alphonsus Road, spits of rain began to fall, yet the warm sun managed to hold its own as a lone chime of the Redemptorist’s bell shot out into the morning air.
On both sides of St Alphonsus Road the blue and white jerseys of Dundalk Gaels lined Conor’s passage towards St Joseph’s Church.
Near the end of the long guard of honour were three navy jerseys and a single gold one - a representation from Conor’s DCU college teammates.
But even before that last turn towards the church, back a bit, alongside the adjacent pitches of Sean O’Mahony’s and Quay Celtic on the Point Road, young men, of a similar in age and outlook to Conor, lined up in their club jerseys - another heartfelt mark of respect on a day full of them.
A garda car led the cortege down the gentle slope towards the church, and the hundreds standing outside hushed.
After being led into the entrance of the Redemptorist those who waited outside followed Conor’s coffin in, but the church was full soon enough and many - well over one hundred - stood close to the steps outside. Heads bowed. Although unable to hear the service beginning within, they remained.
Movingly, Conor’s uncle, Shane Morgan, spoke about Conor’s love of family and his great relationship with his parents and sister - whom he was almost a paternal influence on.
He spoke of how Conor spent the day at a recent confirmation party for a young cousin playing football with the kids - laughing and smiling. He enjoyed it as much as the kids, Shane said. Beside the altar lay the treasured personal effects of a short life - football boots, a picture of Conor with his family and his girlfriend. And also an academic achievement award from Conor’s school, De la Salle, for achieving 500 points in the Leaving Certificate.
Shane spoke about Conor’s natural ability with the books. Conor never had to be told to work or study, he said. Shane described how Conor had put up a poster in his room at the start of the Leaving Cert year with the numerals ‘500’ on it - Conor ultimately achieved 505 points when the results were eventually released later that year.
After the service - which had as its Chief Concelebrant Dundalk Gaels member and former secretary, Fr. Padraig Keenan, PP - Conor was led from the church and once more the blue, white, navy and gold set up for the start of Conor’s final journey.
Throughout an emotional day for the many who knew Conor, stories would be told and re-told - a need to gain some semblance of understanding pushing against the overwhelming grief.
Afterwards, at Gaels’ clubrooms, not far away down on the Ramparts, hundreds came to talk or just listen and to sign the Book of Condolence. The evening before GAA President John Horan paid a visit to the club to offer his sympathies. He would do the same at Conor’s home that day.
In their regular weekly notes to this newspaper, the club put the sense of loss most poignantly - “the club have been enveloped in a cloud of sorrow”.
Every evening since the terrible news of Conor’s passing filtered through the previous Sunday, members have gathered there - their grief palpable. The clubrooms a refuge for those in need of solace.
Down on the Quay last Saturday, a group of Conor’s friends formed a circle and released four - Conor’s jersey number with Gaels - blue balloons. A sustained round of applause followed them high up into the late afternoon sky.