Tributes have been paid to the talented and popular journalist Micheál McGeary who died at the weekend.
Leading the tributes at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Maghery at his funeral this morning was former Co Armagh All Ireland star Jimmy Smyth.
Hundreds of friends, former colleagues and many from the sporting community he had often written about joined his family for Requiem Mass - a fitting testimony to the high regard Micheál was held.
Micheál, who specialised in writing about GAA, was a highly respected journalist also covering boxing and rugby.
Throughout his long career, Micheál was regarded as an inspirational character who had an in-depth knowledge of sport.
Having worked at the Goodyear plant in Craigavon, Micheál joined the sports desk at the Irish News where he worked until 1988.
There his reputation as a top GAA writer was cemented and he gained the admiration and respect of clubs and county teams throughout Ireland.
He was headhunted by the newly established Sunday Life in 1988 where he excelled in covering GAA, rugby and boxing.
Micheál covered the Ulster rugby team through its transition from amateur days to the professional era and also the Ireland team through their Six Nations and World Cup campaigns.
In boxing, he covered bouts from the amateur championships in Belfast’s Dockers Club to the world title fights of Barry McGuigan and Dave Boy McAuley in the 80s golden era of boxing.
He remained a friend and admirer of Barry into management and he was especially close to former Olympic and Commonwealth boxing medallist Hugh Russell, a photographer in the Irish News.
However his heart and soul was steeped in the GAA. He was a lifelong fan of his beloved County Armagh and his local club Maghery Sean MacDermott’s GFC where he had been a life member and former club secretary.
After Mass on Sunday mornings Micheál with his friends and neighbours could often been seen outside the chapel engrossed in all aspects of Gaelic football.
He was a founder member and leading light of the Gaelic Writers’ Association, working to improve the lot of journalists covering games in terms of facilities and access to players and managers and to increase the column inches and airtime given to the sport.
At Saturday night’s McKenna Cup Final a minute’s silence was observed for Micheál which demonstrated the respect and regard he enjoyed within the GAA community.
Ulster Council director Danny Murphy said: “Micheál was for three decades one of the best known and most widely read Gaelic sports journalists, setting a standard that led to the expanded coverage we enjoy today.”
Martin McAviney, Ulster Council President, added: “Micheál was indeed a driving force in modern Gaelic sports journalism. His presence and opinions will be sadly missed.”
The veteran reporter died at the weekend at the Craigavon Area Hospital after a short illness aged 68.
Irish News editor Noel Doran said: “Micheál was one of the leading GAA journalists of his era and he made a massive contribution to The Irish News throughout his time here. He reported with great distinction on many sports, but his passion was always for Gaelic games, with a particular affection for his native Armagh. Micheál will be sadly missed by all his friends at The Irish News and our thoughts are with his family.”
Former Armagh GAA star Stevie McDonnell recorded his tribute to Micheál on Twitter: “Sorry to hear of the death of journalist Michael McGeary. Many fond memories of him interviewing me down through the years.”
He is survived by his wife Olive and his daughters Olive, Susan and Sarah and his brothers Brian and Seamus.