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SILENCE DESCENDED ON WHITEGATE with the North-East Clare village coming to a standstill as the funeral of Michael ‘Mikey’ Hynes took place on Sunday afternoon.

No words could be heard as the hundreds of mourners awaited the arrival of the hearse driven by Tuohy undertakers to arrive at St Flannan’s Church with the coffin draped in a Whitegate and Clare jersey. Crowds assembled up to forty five minutes before the mass with local fields opened up to provide parking as stewards guided motorists.

For the duration of the ninety two minute mass, only four cars passed through the village plus a cyclist. There was nobody home because everyone was out to pay their respect to a beloved young member of the community.

St Flannan’s Church was at full capacity with an estimated 400-500 mourners gathered outside where young and old united, men and women gave their coats to those shaking with the cold while goodwill was also evident in the treatment of individuals who became unwell during the mass. This warm-hearted approach was typical of the young man they came out to remember.

Mikey died suddenly on Tuesday with the village of Whitegate, wider East Clare area and entire hurling community plunged into mourning since. Flags flew at half-mast for Clare’s U20 hurlers Munster championship tie against Limerick on Wednesday while all weekend games in the Clare Cup were preceded by a minute’s silence, all in memory of Hynes.

Gifts brought to the altar in his memory at Sunday’s funeral mass included his green cooper helmet, hurley and sliotar because “hurling was his passion from day one”. A copy book and pen showcased he was “meticulous in his approach to everything”, his Centra fleece and pallet knife demonstrated his love for meeting people in the shop and their high regard for him. “His infectious smile filled up the room,” the congregation heard as a photograph was brought forward while his car keys acknowledged how hard he worked to save for the purchase. His beloved Whitegate jersey was carried forward by his teammate Ian Fahy, “of all the jerseys he wore this was the most important, it was the first jersey he wore and the last”.

Fr John Jones told Sunday’s funeral that an “immense loss” and “deep sadness” has swept over Whitegate. “We have been talking a lot over the last few days which has been a big help to us all”. He expressed “immeasurable sympathy” to the Hynes family and acknowledged “how hard life had been on Michael for the last seven years but they did everything in every moment of their lives to help him. He looked for all the help he could get and his family showed endless love”. Fr Jones added, “he wanted so much to have peace of mind”. He told the Hynes family that their friends will continue to be with them.

Recent days have been “an exceptionally difficult time,” Fr Jones observed. He recalled the immediate hours after word broke of Mikey’s death. “All of a sudden life stopped, it was like the world stopped on a claxon. Sadness and silence descended on everyone and everybody as the news spread. You could tell by looking at someone across the road if they knew”.

Members of the Hynes family including Michael’s grandmother Teresa have been “a great to help to everyone who crossed her path,” Fr Jones stated. He said that the faith she has shown in the past week has been “a great source of hope for us all”.

One constant in photographs of the Hynes family was a smiling Michael with this pleasantness also experienced by customers of Rodgers’ Centra in Scariff where he worked in conjunction with studying for a business degree at the University of Limerick where he was in his final year and due to commence exams in the coming weeks.

An occasion of Michael working one day with his father Declan was also recalled by Fr Jones who described the duo as “two perfectionists. They looked and admired their work and agreed it couldn’t have been done any better. Then Michael looked and said that he could have done better to inherit those genes”. This approach was also evident in the techniques used when cutting grass which had to be pushing a machine as opposed to sitting on it and the different angles he would trial to get the cut just right.

Of all the locations in East Clare, Whitegate’s hurling field in Lakyle was the most common place to find Mikey. “Anytime he was free, he was above in the hurling field,” Fr Jones observed. He recalled one instance when Mikey after finishing his frees spotted a seven year old boy in the field, “he saw him and they started having a few pucks, the minute they started the boy was in wonder, it was as if he was with Tony Kelly because Mikey was the boy’s hero and he was our hero”.

Various images have struck Fr Jones in recent days, he admitted. The stories regarding Mikey represent a jigsaw, “the more stories we learn and tell, the jigsaw gets bigger and bigger” but he expected the jigsaw would never be completed. “I have also been struck by an image of God reaching out for help and Mikey sticking out his hand with a smile”.

Fr Jones added, “One could stay talking about him for a long time, he has inspired us all. We’ve seen all the goodness a single person can have, he was always there with a smile and helping but ready to laugh all the time”.

Speaking from the altar, Whitegate senior hurling manager, Terence Fahy reminisced, “Mikey was special and so loved by everyone in so many ways. There was so many Mikeys, the family man, he was loved by them all. Usually young people crave independence but Mikey was different, he told his parents everything, he was so close to Annette, he was ‘my man’ to Declan, he was more a brother than a son, they had a bond rarely seen between father and son. He worshipped Katie and how she kept all the balls in the air which was something he struggled with. He was worshipped himself by his younger two sisters, Alison and Corinna”. He quipped that Mikey was the “favourite” of his grand-mother Teresa, “he loved to remind Podge of this fact”.

Consistently smiling and charming, he “made time for everyone”, Fahy recalled. He commended his “openness about his struggles” but added, “he was a brilliant actor, we all know he had the movie star looks but he put a brave face on for everyone. When people asked how he was, his automatic reflex was to turn back on the enquirer and asked how they were”.

Fahy who chose Mikey at midfield on the club senior hurling team commented, “He made great friends with lads through hurling and girls through life. Centra was a happy place for him. Working with Declan was tough and it was cold, Mike didn’t do the cold, he had hands like ice boxes so Centra was very cosy. He formed bonds with everyone. He had the common touch. Hurling is the daily diet in Scariff and he loved that”. In Centra, his consumption of GAA also increased by watching matches on his phone which was “discreetly positioned out of view, he worked Sundays and the bosses were off on Sundays”.

He continued, “Socially Mike loved mixing with girls and seemingly he did a lot of mixing. The girls loved him and boys envied how easy he threw chat their way. He had capacity to engage meaningfully, great social skills”. His closest friends would also be aware that “Mike was well able to give a dig and cut lads down to size”.

That Mikey captained All-Ireland winning teams for Scariff Community College and the University of Limerick is no coincidence, the Clare U20 manager emphasised. “In sport he excelled. He captained so many teams which says volumes, players looked up to him and managements appointed him to lead”.

Kerry great Darragh Ó Sé had nineteen midfield partners, Fahy highlighted while noting with the Whitegate senior team Michael’s equivalent was eight. “In our training, he set the benchmark for fitness, some could go with him, others couldn’t stay going with him. As one sage hurling man said to Declan during the week, nobody handled more ball for us than Mike”. The freetaking responsibility was one he “thrived” on, “he sought perfection in the game and that’s why he lived in the field. He was there the day he died, it was his craft. It’s been many years since Whitegate had a player in the County Express top scorer list but Mike was there last year”. Terence continued, “Most of all, he was the smile in our group, he was the most loved and most minded. Mike didn’t like certain aspects of Mike but we loved every bit of him, he was our Mike”.

How Michael looked for help must not be forgotten, the secondary school teacher advised. “Seven years ago, he began to question his place in the world, his peace of mind was challenged. He was proactive in seeking help. As he aged we all taught he would develop the coping skills to tame his unsettled mind”. He continued, “He fooled us this year, his physical strength was bigger than ever and he was in the best shape he had been but not on the inside. He was a warrior but he was unable to win this battle”.

“Mike sought help. If we are weak or at a loss, that’s what we must do. He spoke to so many healthcare professionals and did his own independent research. He sought normality and peace of mind for years, that peace proved elusive,” he stated. “The Hynes family have already given us great strength. They do not harbour regrets of should we have done this or could have done that. Everything that could have been possibly done to help Mike was done by those closest to him, that is a comfort to us all. We’ve cried about him and we will cry more; we’ve laughed about him and we’ll laugh more. Mike will not be forgotten because he was too special”.

Terence concluded, “Earlier I said there was many Mikes but in truth there was only one Mike, he leaves a rich legacy, the strongest is how he made us feel. We were blessed to have had him, we must cherish those memories and mind each other. As Michael would say ‘head up’”.

Addressing the congregation, Michael’s mother Annette said she would be “forever grateful” to the community for how they have rallied behind them. She expressed an “undying gratitude” to everyone who helped Mikey. She read a version of the poem ‘God saw you were getting tired’ and noted how peaceful her son looked, “he is now in the garden of rest but here on earth he was the best”.

Guards of honour were provided by Whitegate GAA club and the University of Limerick as Michael’s coffin made its way to Clonrush Cemetery.

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

 

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