Moving tribute at funeral to Carrick Swan GAA Club stalwart Noel Russell

Moving tribute at funeral to Carrick Swan GAA Club stalwart Noel Russell

The late Noel Russell.

                             It is with the deepest regret that Carrick Swan GAA Club records the passing of its dearest friend and club stalwart Noel Russell after a lengthy illness borne with great dignity and acceptance.

 Swan Club Secretary Sean O'Shea, who was a great friend of Noel's, gave a moving tribute to Noel at his funeral. 

He said when word broke that Noel had passed away there was an outpouring of grief throughout the GAA world. Although ill for some time his passing was still very difficult to come to terms with such was his standing in the community.

Mr O'Shea described Noel as an "outstanding" Swan man and great Tipperary Gael, who gave so much to the Club.  He was the Club's County Board Representative and a valued committee member at the time of his passing and filled many different positions for club and county over many years. 

He recalled that Noel's childhood home in Pearse Square was the closest house to the Swan Club. It was a house that had a very real meaning to all in the Club. From washing jerseys to holding the keys, Noel’s mother Cissie did it all.  

As a hurler Noel won numerous medals with Carrick Swan as a very skilful corner forward. They included U-21 South medals in 1971, 1972 and 1973. He scored a vital goal in the U-21 county final win of 1972. He also won senior medals in 1974 and 1978.

Noel was perhaps better known as a coach or mentor, Mr O'Shea recalled. "When Noel finished hurling, he immersed himself in all club activities; he became a mentor and enjoyed coaching the skills of the game, it didn’t matter to Noel if a player was good, once they were interested.

"His achievements at club level were noticed at county level and he became a minor hurling selector with Tipperary. He served in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005 and 2006. In that time, Tipperary won a Munster Championship in 1999 and the All Ireland championship in 2006.

"He was called up to mentor the Tipperary U-21s in 2008 when they won the Munster championship. He then retired from inter-county activity after the 2009 season."

Mr O'Shea continued that Noel nurtured many players throughout the parishes of south Tipperary and surrounding areas in his capacity as a club coach or a schools coaching officer. "He was rightly accorded a special merit award in 2014 for his great contribution to Bord na nÓg over the years. "

He said Noel shared the dream of developing new playing facilities for the Swan Club at Ballyrichard and was instrumental in ensuring that it would become more than just a dream. It was poignant that the excavators moved in to start the development the week he passed away.  

Mr O'Shea paid tribute to Noel's wife Rita, who gave him the opportunity to follow his passion since they first met in the Country Ballroom in Fethard and got married 42 years ago.

"Since then, copious flasks of tea and bales of sandwiches have been consumed in almost every GAA ground in Ireland as the Russell family went on tour following Tipperary.

"He enjoyed all sports, be it horse racing, rugby, golf or soccer. He was a Spurs fan of long standing. He enjoyed socialising on a Sunday evening in the Old Mill. 

"In the Club, if we had a problem, Noel’s diplomatic skills excelled. He had a way of leading people of differing views to ultimately agree, before they knew that they had. 

Mr O'Shea said Noel was devoted to all his family and in later years his 8 grandchildren who brought him such joy. 

"Noel Russell was one of the most genuine people you could ever meet in life. His dignified way always shone through, his humility was an endearing trait, his integrity was beyond reproach."

He noted that a very fitting example of the esteem in which Noel was held was that in the Lebanon where our players who are members of the Defence Forces are serve, a special Mass was celebrated in his memory last Wednesday evening. 

Mr O'Shea added that Noel's death will be deeply felt by all who knew him and his passing left a massive void in the Swan Club. He was quite simply irreplaceable.

Noel Russell's remains were removed from Walsh's Funeral Home in Carrick-on-Suir to St Nicholas Church. A huge crowd of mourners from far and wide came to pay their respects. 

During the removal, the hearse passed by the Swan Club and was met by the Club's juveniles who lined up in the club colours. Past and present players as well as the club committee also formed a guard of honour.

In front of the club which was also outside his mother’s house, Noel’s coffin was removed from the hearse and current club players lifted him to carry him shoulder high to St Nicholas’s church. 

An emotional round of applause broke out as he made his final journey from the Swan Club to the church.

Noel was laid to rest in St Mary’s Cemetery following his funeral Mass where former County Board chairman Sean Nugent gave a wonderful rendition of ‘Slievenamon’ at the graveside.

The Swan Club extends deepest sympathy to Noel’s wife Rita, his mother Cissie, his children Lisa, Michael, Fiona and Martin; his eight grandchildren Ciara, Aoife, Eoin, Ruth, Conor, Kilian, Ava and Ella; his brothers Tom and Michael John, sisters Catherine and Angela, sons-in-law Brian and Jimmy; daughter-in-law Michelle, brother-in-law Padraic, nephews Dermot and Sean, niece Tara and to all his extended family and friends.