October 25, 2006
The late Liam Bennett
Wexford said goodbye to a great hurler and a true gentleman at the funeral of the well-known painter and decorator, Mr. Liam Bennett of Mulgannon, Wexford.
Liam died at Wexford General Hospital, a few days after falling from his bicycle at Ferrycarrig while enjoying a morning spin.
His unexpected death was greeted with shock and sadness throughout the county especially among GAA supporters who were due to honour him at Wexford Park that afternoon.
A member of the Faythe Harriers team which won the County Senior hurling championship in 1981, Liam was looking forward to joining his team-mates at the County Board ceremony for the 25th anniversary when the accident happened.
Instead, the same hurling pals were among the huge gathering of mourners who attended the removal of the remains and the funeral Mass in Bride Street Church.
Hundreds of people turned up to pay their last respects to a talented man who quietly touched the hearts of many through his modesty and kindness.
The genuine affection in which he was held, was reflected in the tributes paid to him by friends and sporting colleagues.
During the removal of the remains, Fr Aodhan Marken read out an anonymous email message from a former Harriers hurler to whom Liam Bennett was a true hero.
'I wanted to be Liam Bennett .... I wanted high ankle boots like he wore,' he said.
'After training in Mulganon finished and the rest of the seniors had retired to the shed to tog out, he'd stay behind for rocket penalties, frees and massive sideline cuts. We'd fight amongst ourselves to puck the ball back to him.
'He called me by my name and that was a huge thing to a chap who was never called by his name.
'He once gave away a Wexford number 4 to a fan who had a few names printed on the back and proceeded to wear it for years up and down the Main Street. I think this embarrassed him but he never showed it.
'I often wondered how he got any work done on the Main Street, he was so unfailingly polite to everybody who wanted to talk to him.
'Nobody noticed when he talked me through the entire journey up and down to Croke Park when we were eventually picked on the same team. Quiet, unassuming and a rock of sense and sound advice, listening to the nervous ramblings of a debutant on a team with Liam Bennett.
'I wasn't fit to lace his boots as a player but he always made me feel like I was good enough to be his team-mate. He always called me by my name'.
The Faythe Harriers Hurling and Camogie Club extended sympathy to Liam's family on his death, describing him as one of the greatest and most sporting hurlers who ever wore the purple and gold of both club and county.
Liam won an All-Ireland medal with Wexford in 1968 and went on to play in Senior All-Ireland finals in 1976 and 1977.
As well as winning a large number of under-age medals with the Harriers, the culmination of his club achievements was winning the county Senior hurling title in 1981.
He also won county football titles with Sarsfield in Senior, Intermediate, Under 21 and Minor.
The Harriers provided a guard of honour at the removal and to Crosstown Cemetery where Liam was buried with his beloved wife, Colette, who died suddenly in 2003.
'Anyone who knew Liam knew him as a quietly-spoken gentleman who was always friendly and welcoming and who never had a bad word to say about anybody,' said a Harriers spokesman.
'He was held in the highest regard by team-mates but was also a major influence on younger players who went on to represent the club and county at Senior level.'
Members of Wexford Wheelers with whom Liam started cycling about 20 years ago, were also deeply saddened by his death.
'He was at the heart of our club,' said his friend, Paddy Kinsella. 'He was chairman for a number of years and when the Tour de France came to Ireland, he was at the head of the club.'
A fit and active cyclist, Liam competed this year in the Tommy O'Brien Memorial Race, finishing second, and was third overall in the 2006 Wexford Wheelers League.
He also took part in long-distance and charity cycling events earlier in the year, including the National Council for the Blind in Ireland Festival of Cycling in Kerry. He also enjoyed cycling holidays in France.
A special joy was cycling to Dublin with Liam to support the Wexford hurling team in Croke Park. While some were quick to criticise Wexford's hurlers during the lean times, Liam never did.
'We will miss Liam greatly. It will take us a while to get used to not seeing him in the Bull Ring on Sunday morning and enjoying a spin with a man who was genuinely liked by all of us'.
Brother McHale, who taught Liam in the C.B.S and also taught him competitive boxing, travelled to Wexford for his funeral.
Liam also enjoyed line-dancing and took up the hobby again, having lost interest for a time after his wife Colette died.
During the Offertory procession, Liam's hurl, his paintbrush and Wexford Wheelers jersey were brought to the altar along with a photograph of him with Colette.
Liam is survived by his daughters, Emma (Mulgannon), Cathy (Scotland) and Nicola (Dublin); his son, John (Africa); his brother, Jack and sisters, Maura and Anne (England), and Vera (Wexford); his grandson, Sammy, other relatives and his many friends.
Courtesy of Wexford People
25 October 2006
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