Northern Ireland news

Anto Finnegan remained 'hope filled' despite his MND diagnosis and raised thousands for charity, mourners at funeral hear

Anto Finnegan's coffin is brought into Christ the Redeemer church in west Belfast yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell

FORMER Antrim football captain Anto Finnegan was a "family man" who deeply cared for those closest to him, mourners heard yesterday.

Hundreds of people, including GAA President Larry McCarthy, attended Requiem Mass for Mr Finnegan at his parish church of Christ the Redeemer in Lagmore in west Belfast.

Mr Finnegan, who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2012, died in the Royal Victoria Hospital on Saturday. He was 48.

Anto Finnegan's family stand by his coffin following Requiem Mass yesterday. Picture by Hugh Russell

Well-wishers lined streets around the church and gathered in the grounds to pay their respects, amid ongoing Covid restrictions.

Healthcare staff and members of St Paul's GAA held a guard of honour as Mr Finnegan's coffin, draped in a St Paul's jersey, was carried into the church.

Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, Fr Gary Donegan, director of The Passionist Peace and Reconciliation Office in Belfast, and former Dublin football manager Jim Gavin were among mourners.

In his homily, Fr Brian McCann said Mr Finnegan had remained "hope-filled" despite his diagnosis and had raised £300,000 through the charity he founded, deterMND.

He spoke of Mr Finnegan's love for his wife Alison, his son Conall, daughter Ava, parents and siblings.

Anto Finnegan's family walking into Christ the Redeemer church in west Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

The Finnegans were married for 23 years. They first met in 1992 at Lámh Dhearg CLG in Hannahstown, west Belfast.

Fr McCann told Mrs Finnegan: "Your heart obviously breaks today."

"We pray that the Lord may console you, not just today but in the days ahead," he said.

He said Mr Finnegan's children were "very proud" of their father "as he was very proud of you".

"Today you have many memories of your father's love for you," he said.

"As you know he was totally focused on you and your mother."

Fr McCann noted the "very warm and complimentary adulations" Mr Finnegan had received in media reports following his death.

He said Mr McCarthy's presence at the Mass highlighted Mr Finnegan's commitment to the GAA.

Former Antrim GAA captain Anto Finnegan died at the age of 48

Offertory gifts included a football and a hurl.

Fr McCann said Mr Finnegan had a strong faith and regularly attended Mass.

"First and foremost Anto was a man of faith," he said.

He highlighted Mr Finnegan's Camino pilgrimage in 2017.

The west Belfast man completed 90 miles of the gruelling Camino Frances - the most popular pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago - travelling in a specially-adapted wheelchair through difficult terrain.

He said Mr Finnegan "had a particular devotion to St Anthony... and visited many shrines dedicated to St Anthony".

Mr Finnegan's family wept and embraced each other following the noon Mass.

He was later laid to rest in Milltown Cemetery.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news