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Huge crowds pay final farewell to Sean Freyne


Huge crowds bid final farewell to Seán Freyne

‘Mighty Mayo man’ hailed by Taoiseach

Michael Commins

TWO Presidents and the Taoiseach were among the many people who attended the funeral ceremonies of Professor Seán Freyne in Dublin and Mayo last week. The Tooreen native, who served as Professor of Theology (until 1997) and Head of School of Hebrew, Biblical and Theological Studies at Trinity College from 1980 to 2002, was warmly remembered as an extraordinary Mayo man by so many friends last week.
President Michael D Higgins and former President, Mary McAleese, were among those who attended the Requiem Mass in Rathmines Church in Dublin on Thursday. Fr Enda McDonagh, Maynooth, and a native of Bekan, delivered the homily. He recalled the wonderful attributes of Seán that endeared him to so many people wherever he went and his abiding love and fondness for Christianity and the land of the Bible.
His lifelong love affair with Mayo football and the GAA was referred to by many people over the last few days. Seán was captain of the Mayo minor team that won the All Ireland title back in 1953 but, as he was a student in Maynooth Seminary at the time, was not allowed out to play in the final.
Seán played one senior championship game for Mayo. It was in 1956 against Galway in McHale Park, Castlebar when he lined out at centre forward. He had come to the attention of selector, Henry Kenny, former All Ireland medal winner with Mayo in 1936 and who served as a TD for Mayo for many years. Dan O’Neill had moved on to Louth (with whom he won an All Ireland in 1957) and Seán was slotted into the half forward line. (Thanks to Fr Peter Waldron and Fr Gerry French for this background information).
In a moving and poignant gesture, current Mayo fullback Ger Cafferkey, presented the No 3 jersey he had worn in Croke Park in the quarter final against Donegal some days earlier to the Freyne family and this was placed on Seán’s coffin in Rathmines Church.
After Requiem Mass, the funeral proceeded to Culmore Cemetery, Kilkelly for interment in his beloved Mayo. A great gathering of friends awaited the arrival under the raining Mayo skies, all there because they wanted to show their respects to a man whose brilliant but gentle outreach had touched so many hearts along life’s journey. The guard of honour was led by Eamon Walsh from Charlestown who took over the mantle of captain for the 1953 final when Mayo defeated Clare by 2-11 to 1-6.
The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, was present in Culmore cemetery to pay his own respects to a giant of the theological world. “There was something about Seán that endeared him to everyone. He was an outstanding person and a mighty Mayo man,” said Enda.
Numerous people from various walks of life were present at the interment ceremony in Kilkelly. Among them were many colleagues and friends from church circles as well as from GAA and numerous other fields of activities. Former Down legend Seán O’Neill, who is a solicitor in Belfast, and holder of three All Ireland medals with the Mourne county (and a member of the Team of the Century) travelled all the way to Kilkelly to join in the tributes. Fr Enda McDonagh again presided at the graveside prayers.
Seán is survived by his wife Gail, daughters Bridget and Sarah, his sister Mary Keane (Swinford), Alexander and Richard, nieces, nephews, the extended family and his numerous colleagues and friends.