Lives Remembered

Mary O'Reilly: There was something very special about 'Mary O'

Mary loved supporting her family's GAA interests and activities

ST Patrick's Church, Cullyhanna was a sea of colour as a community came together to lay Mary O'Reilly to rest.

It was something Mary (45) and her husband Gerry had always agreed on - their funerals should not be sombre, dour affairs but a celebration of life and the good times they had shared.

And it was especially fitting that so many among the hundreds of mourners wore club and county colours in memory of this bright, friendly and outgoing lady who dedicated so much of her life to the GAA.

Cullyhanna and Armagh were well represented, but jerseys also ranged from neighbouring teams to far-flung places like Venezuela. Even one or two Down men donned orange for the day.

Mary, who finally succumbed to cancer after a four-year battle supported by a campaign dubbed 'There's Something About Mary O', had been a stalwart of St Patrick's GAC, Cullyhanna and a hugely popular figure across south Armagh.

She was steeped in the GAA from an early age as the daughter of club president Mickey Joe Sheridan and sister of former senior player Jim.

Mary exhibited her own playing skills through both the camogie club and Gaelic for Mums initiative, but was best known for her unstinting support of her family.

Her Monaghan-born husband Gerry coaches both ladies' and men's football, while their children have been integral parts of underage teams and daughter Erin has represented Armagh at all levels.

Mary O'Reilly celebrates Sam Maguire coming to Armagh with her daughter Erin, a future county player

Erin and Mary's niece Orlaith have also won county, Ulster and All-Ireland medals in Scór na nÓg.

"Whether it was the football or camogie pitch or the Scór hall, Mary was always there to support her family, usually in the company of her sister Noreen, and they contributed respect, encouragement and laughter to club life no matter what the results," the club said.

Mary was a stalwart of Cullyhanna and Armagh GAA

"Mary's passion for the GAA was also exemplified throughout Armagh's glorious run to the All Ireland title in 2002, when her in-law Steven kicked the winning point against Kerry, and she was undoubtedly one of Armagh's most loyal supporters, bringing her vibrancy and humour to grounds up and down the country."

Mary was first diagnosed with breast cancer two days before her 42nd birthday in May 2015.

She underwent treatment and was hopeful for the future but the following May received the devastating news that it had spread to her liver.

With options limited on the NHS, the community rallied around and a group of friends set out to ensure she was given the best chance possible.

A series of events at GAA clubs and other venues brought people together and raised tens of thousands of pounds which allowed her to receive specialist treatment in Manchester.

When the cancer then spread to her liver and brain, the fund provided further treatment in Dublin to extend her life.

Throughout these difficult years Mary - who had worked as a medical receptionist in Newry and Cullyhanna - somehow never complained about her illness, typically inquiring about the welfare of others before herself.

She and Gerard had always raised money for charities - in particular Little Hearts Matter following the death of their new-born son Eoin from a heart condition in 2006 - and Mary even managed to give back to the Mandeville unit in Craigavon hospital while she was ill.

Eoin was always in her thoughts and she took some comfort in the fact that while she would be leaving her family, she would be re-united with him.

"Mary was a modest person whose faith was very important and she was very good to others facing illness - she always wanted to help," Gerard said.

"It was very humbling what people did for her - they will never know how much we really appreciate it."

Mary O'Reilly, of Ballinarea, Cullyhanna, died a week before her 46th birthday on May 13.

She is survived by her husband Gerard, their children Erin, Conor, Aoife, Niamh and Ciara, her father Mickey Joe, mother Alice, sister Noreen and brothers Jim and Damien.

Her month's mind Mass will be celebrated at St Patrick's Church, Cullyhanna at 11.30am on Sunday June 16.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Lives Remembered