Tribute to a clerical hurling legend

Dear Editor, The death has occurred of Venerable Archdeacon Michael O’Brien, known to a generation of Cork GAA supporters as ‘the Canon’.

The people of Cork are saying goodbye to a priest who has served us well; walked with us in our joys, our sorrows and in our everyday lives. He baptised us, prayed with us in our celebrations and grieved over our losses. We could be forgiven for thinking that the archdeacon went on forever.

Archdeacon O’Brien was direct and appreciated straight talking. He helped many a young person regain a sense of self-worth to carry on and live well. Just as on the hurling field, he was able to spot possibility and draw it out, so too in his pastoral work he demanded that people do their best. He was a friend and advocate for the worried, the unemployed, the prisoner and the down-and-out.

Archdeacon O’Brien was at the helm when St Finbarr’s Seminary, Farranferris – where he taught – won the Dr Harty Cup in 1969, ‘71, ‘72, ‘73 and ‘74, adding All-Irelands in ‘72 and ‘74. I remember him in ‘Farna’ during the lean times. The Canon led UCC to eight consecutive Fitzgibbon Cup titles from 1981-88, added two more in 1990 and ’91 and led Cork to the 1984 and 1990 All-Ireland senior title.

His remarkable career of hurler and coach-by-trade is matched only by his Christian faith and the care he took of God’s people. He constantly and humbly told us that he lived in the knowledge of his limitations and of his need for God. The toll of his pain and illness in his final years was fought bravely. We thank him for his goodness.

Yours etc.,

Bill Curtin,

Carrigaline, Co. Cork.