Tears for ‘outstanding’ dad and sportsman who died in Limerick bridge crash

The Funeral Mass of Darren Ryan at John the Baptist Church, Meelick. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

AN “OUTSTANDING” sportsman and father of one, who died when his minibus struck a bridge in Co Limerick, had “a smile that would light up a room”, his funeral mass, held today, heard.

Darren Ryan, 30, from Meelick, Co Clare, was driving home when the bus he was driving, struck Athlunkard Bridge – a border crossing between Clare and Limerick – at around 3am, last Saturday.

A handwritten tribute drawn by Mr Ryan’s young son Raymie on his father’s coffin, read, “I love you dad”, enveloped by hand-drawn red coloured heart shapes.

Little Raymie left a framed photo of himself and his late dad, symbolising their love for one another, on the altar of John the Baptist Church, Meelick, at the beginning of the poignant mass.

Other symbols of Mr Ryan’s short life which were left at the church altar, included a rugby ball, hurley and sliotar, a golf club, and a family photograph, representing his passion for sport and family.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Mr Ryan’s father, Ray Ryan, a former U-20 Irish rugby international and Munster Senior Cup and All Ireland League winner with Young Munster RFC, who Darren followed into the oval ball game, alongside his triplet brothers Evan and Gavin, held back tears as he paid a heartfelt tribute to his deceased son.

Looking down on several rugby jerseys Darren wore for St Munchins College, Young Munsters, Garryowen in Limerick, and Kilfeacle, west Tipperary, as well as Meelick GAA Club, Mr Ryan drew an easy laughter from the heartbroken congregation when he joked: “You could say Darren had more clubs than Tiger Woods.”

Mr Ryan thanked neighbours and friends who he said had prepared his son’s grave and would fill it in after the mass, as is a long standing tradition in the rural south east Clare parish.

Others paying tribute told how the filled to capacity church was “testament to Darren’s popularity and his likability”.

“Daren had natural charisma, he lit up a room, and he was always bursting with positivity and good humour.”

“He’d look at you with a mischievous grin and twinkle in his eye, he had that right through his life. You couldn’t but enjoy yourself and enjoy the craic when you were with Darren.”

A local priest paying tribute to Mr Ryan said: “Darren was an outstanding athlete he played with his two brothers with St Munchins and they were hard luck in not winning a Munster Cup medal.

“Darren was a father, a son, a brother, a neighbour and a friend, he touched us all with his wit and humility.”

Guards of honour were performed by Mr Ryan’s former rugby and GAA teammates.

Following the Mass, loved ones shouldered Mr Ryan’s coffin, draped in a St Munchin’s College rugby flag, from the church to a waiting hearse as his former rugby and GAA teammates performed a guard of honour.

Mr Ryan, survived by his parents Ray and Trish; siblings Evan, Gavin, Dawn; partner Millena and son Raymie, was laid to rest in nearby Ballycannon Cemetery, Co Clare.