Northern Ireland news

Funeral held for 'inspirational' Co Down GAA coach Sonia Kinsella

Sonia Kinsella was named Ulster GAA Coach of the Year

HUNDREDS of mourners yesterday gathered to say their final farewells to Co Down GAA coach Sonia Kinsella.

A guard of honour was formed outside St Patrick's Church, Saul as family and friends of the 48-year-old remembered the dedicated nurse, avid sportswoman and mother-of-two.

The Saul GAC coach, who was involved in Gaelic games throughout her life, had been named Ulster GAA Coach of the Year just before Christmas.

She had begun coaching children's football around the time of her initial diagnosis with breast cancer when she was 35.

The disease returned three years ago and she underwent chemotheraphy treatment, describing sport as her "salvation" during her battle with illness.

Since her death on Saturday, hundreds of tributes have been paid to Ms Kinsella, with Ulster GAA describing her as a "highly inspirational figure."

Saul GAC said she was a "true gael" and wrote of the club's pride when she won Ulster GAA Coach of the Year and Ulster LGFA Volunteer of the Year.

"To say we were proud was an understatement and the crowd that showed up to surprise her was a testament to that," it said.

"Throughout her illness, she never stepped back from what she saw as her responsibility to her club and her community.

"Sonia was as proud a Saul woman as you could get.

"She had blue and gold running through her veins and she wanted nothing but the best for all of us. We will miss her drive, her energy, her never give up attitude.

"Whether she was on the field driving the girls on with that throaty roar, or in the kitchen serving the teas, or in the committee room telling us to wise up and just get on with it, Sonia gave of her herself always.

"Our club and our community have lost one of a kind."

Messages of sympathy and condolence have been posted on social media, including one from St Patrick's Grammar Downpatrick, where Ms Kinsella's children are pupils.

"Sonia's enthusiasm was infectious, she was passionate about our school and gave her time and expertise so generously to school events and activities, always with a smile and her wonderful sense of humour," the school said.

St Patrick's Primary School, Saul also said: "In our community she was a link who everyone knew and we were so lucky that she contributed so much - often putting others first".

Ms Kinsella is survived by her husband Philip and children Aisling and Cathal.

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