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Ballyea prepares to say goodbye to one of its most loyal supporters – Colin Barry

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*Photograph: Joe Buckley

One of Ballyea’s most loyal supporters and a popular figure within Clare greyhound racing circles, Colin Barry has died.

An ever-present member of the supporting contingent at games involving his beloved Ballyea, Colin took pride of place among the panel of players and captain Cathal Doohan when they were crowned U21 A hurling champions in 2012 for the first time in their history.

It was a sign of positive days ahead for the club with their first ever Clare SHC title secured in 2016 and once again Colin was supporting the men in Black and Amber from the very beginning of their campaign all the way to Croke Park where they competed with Cuala in the All-Ireland decider. Moments after overcoming Clonlara in the county final replay, a panel photograph on the pitch was taken with Colin included in the snap.

A past pupil of St Flannan’s College and Mary Immaculate College, Colin left a memorable and fond impression on those that knew him. In primary school he faced off with classmates including Tony Kelly and Niall Deasy stopping shots from the goal but as the years progressed so too did his spina bifida and he was confined to a wheelchair.

Recent years saw his sporting participation extend to greyhound racing. Newhall Missile, a dog he owned alongside Noel Coote won the BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Consolation Derby in 2018 having started out as a 150/1 rank outside before Round One. Named after Colin’s address, the dog grabbed the attention of the county two years ago making its way to the Derby.

Speaking in 2018 on the affect, Newhall Missile had on Colin, his father Gerry outlined, “We’ve had too many days in hospital this year but he’s always been a battler and the spirits are good at the moment. The dog gives him something to look forward to every week. He’s here now and he’ll go through all the form from the weekend and look ahead through the draw. He’s sports mad anyway and to have this kind of involvement is precious for us all really. It’s a real tonic for him. The first night the dog won a race in Shelbourne was proof of that. He was stuck to the oxygen tank before that and has hardly gone near it since. It gave him some lift”.

It was the first time Colin and Gerry got involved in greyhounds and proved to be an unforgettable experience. Trained by John Browne, Newhall Missile was described as having the same courage as his owner. On the night of the Derby Final, Colin received a warm and rapturous welcome from the Shelbourne Park when he appeared on the winner’s podium. A spokesperson for the Irish Greyhound Board said they had “a very heavy heart” upon hearing news of Colin’s passing.

Colin died peacefully at University Hospital Limerick on Monday. He is sadly missed by his loving parents Noelette and Gerry, brother Ronan, sister Emily, grandmother Kathleen, aunts, uncles, cousins, relatives, neighbours and friends.

Social distancing is to observed for Friday’s funeral and burial at Ballyea Church. Donations if desired can be made to Mid-West Spina Bifida.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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