Updated: 18/02/12 : 10:56:32
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Former Sligo and Aston player 'Chick' Deacy laid to rest

THE THEME music for BBC television’s Match of the Day and a soccer guard of honour were among tributes to former Aston Villa and Galway United defender Eamon “Chick” Deacy, who was buried yesterday in Galway.

The Irish Times reported that Aston Villa director Robin Russell and four of Deacy’s colleagues from the club’s English league championship and European Cup winning team of the early 1980s were among several thousand people who attended the funeral in the Augustinian Church.

The congregation spilled out on to Middle Street and beyond.

Chief celebrant Fr Dick Lyng said that in 30 years of funerals, having buried prelates and politicians and many sporting heroes, he had never seen anything quite like the volume of people who came to the removal and funeral Mass.

President Michael D Higgins had travelled to the removal on Thursday evening, when people queued for up to six hours to pay their respects.

The unassuming former soccer star, who was in his late 50s, died suddenly last Monday.

Deacy, the youngest of 10 siblings from Galway’s Henry Street, recently received a Galway Sports Stars Hall of Fame award for his achievements, which included capturing the English league title with Aston Villa in 1980/1 and the European Cup the following season.

He picked up four caps for the Republic of Ireland and also played for Derby County before returning home to play with Galway United, Sligo Rovers and Limerick. NUI Galway awarded him an honorary Master of Arts degree several years ago.

Many supporters of Galway United and his former club West United were at the large funeral, which was also attended by the President’s aide-de-camp Cmdt Michael Walsh and Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney.

Former Aston Villa teammates who attended were Gordon Cowans, Tony Morley, Ken McNaught and Colin Gibson.

Fr Lyng recalled a conversation this week with Connacht Tribune photographer Joe O’Shaughnessy in relation to Deacy’s popularity.

“It was his decency and his downright humility. He was a decent guy and that’s why they are here,” O’Shaughnessy had explained, and Fr Lyng noted that such virtues were “not exactly in abundance” today.

Quoting Galway journalist Declan Varley, Fr Lyng said Deacy’s feet were “placed firmly on the ground”.

Don and Ernie Deacy drew laughter by recounting stories of their youngest brother. Ernie, who worked closely with him in the family’s fruit and vegetable shop on Sea Road, said there were only two things that would draw his brother “out of his box”.

These were the number of priests present, as Eamon’s faith was paramount, and the guard of honour planned by West United. Eamon would want to know “what they were all doing there”, he said, to applause.

Offertory gifts presented by his nieces and nephews included a jersey to represent his time at Aston Villa, a football which he and his son Jake had played with, a basket of fruit to symbolise his life outside sport, a Child of Prague statue which he had given his daughter Dawn, and photos of where he had played as a child and where he played soccer at South Park or The Swamp.

Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was played at the Mass opening, a piece of music favoured by Eamon and his wife Mary. Chief mourners were Eamon’s wife Mary O’Connor, daughter Dawn and son Jake and his siblings Michael, George, Mary, Neil, Ernest, Tommy and Don. He was predeceased by brothers Nicholas (Dixie) and Desmond.

Note: President Michael D Higgins is recorded on Facebook as having turned up on Thursday night and bypassed his right of jumping the queue afforded to dignatories. He queued with everybody else as a mark of respect.