Belfast Celtic player Jimmy Donnelly laid to rest
ONE of the last of the famous Belfast Celtic players, Jimmy Donnelly, found it "easy enough" to give his heart and soul to everything that he did, mourners heard at his funeral yesterday.
Family, friends and fans packed St Therese of Lisieux Church on north Belfast's Somerton Road to pay their last respects to the 87-year-old accountant and sports star.
Mr Donnelly died from cancer on Thursday at Northern Ireland Hospice.
Priest and long-time confidante Fr Sam Kerr told the congregation "the way you regard life is of the greatest importance" and "they way that you devote your heart and soul, that gives it meaning to your life".
"Jimmy found this task easy enough," he said.
"He was most alive on a sports field, deep interest made him at that time balance sport and study - the two seemed to work very well, one helping the other."
Mr Donnelly was signed by Belfast Celtic in 1949, their last season, and went on to become a founding member of the Belfast Celtic Society.
A green and white wreath from the society was in pride of place beside the coffin in the hearse and among the mourners was former team mate Arthur `Mousey' Brady.
Mr Donnelly also played hurling for Antrim, appearing in two All-Ireland semi-finals at Croke Park.
Mr Donnelly was also a well-known accountant, with his own practice on Fitzwilliam Street, near Queen's University.
Fr Kerr said he maintained until the very end an interest "in the normal and the ordinary", reminiscing about mutual acquaintances with wit and a keen eye for detail.
"He could take the sadness out of any situation," the priest said.
"He could have clung to a joke if the place around him was falling down."
A father-of-four and grandfather-of-nine - to whom he was affectionately known as `Papa' - he played an active part in his church, serving on its hall committee and as a reader.
"He had no enemies that I can find, there was nobody that disliked Jimmy. The only one would be the one that was trying to take the ball off him in the field," Fr Kerr said.
His family paid tribute to staff at Belfast City Hospital and Northern Ireland Hospice, who had taken devoted care of him during his long illness.
Burial afterwards was at Sacred Heart Church in Cargin, Toomebridge, Co Derry.