IN HIS eulogy at the funeral of Stephen McCluskey on Wednesday, his brother paid tribute to a “soul that brought joy and fulfilment to many, and whose legacy will live on forever”.

47-year-old Stephen sadly passed away on Saturday, April 24 in Cork University Hospital surrounded by his loving family, who are coming to terms with the sorrow, shock and loss they are feeling.

His brother, Ryan, told mourners at the Requiem Mass in Cork of a brother who excelled at so much in life and who was the heart and soul of so many happy occasions with his family.

Academically, Stephen excelled at St. Michael’s Primary School and College before heading to Manchester Metropolitan University.

He was also an altar boy, scout and also played in the scout band: “He played the tuba that we all laughed at, because it was bigger than him,” recalled Ryan.

Jujitsu and gymnastics all caught his attention for a while, but when it came to sport there was nothing that could top hurling.

“Out of all his sports though that he participated in, he loved hurling the most. He excelled in the sport, winning many All-Ireland titles for his skills and long puck abilities.

Enniskillen Gaels

“He was particularly proud of winning a Senior Championship with Enniskillen Gaels before going on to coach at inter-county level with Fermanagh GAA.”

And it was a love of hurling that Stephen passed onto his nieces and nephews, said Ryan.

“He made sure that everyone was bought a stick at some stage; whether they wanted to or not, they were taught hurling.”

In later years, Stephen fell in love with Cork, where he would meet his wife, Fiona, and raise two children, Alannah and Odhrán, who Ryan says were “by far his proudest achievement in life”.

“He was always an immensely proud father and husband, whose first lines of any conversations were about his children. In Fiona’s mum and dad, Winnie and Mick, he adopted another two wonderful parents that he truly loved and cherished as his own.”

His love for sport continued in Cork and he became involved in many clubs, most recently the rowing club.

And while Cork and Fermanagh were at opposite ends of the country, Stephen loved planning the next family get-together, which he would have been in the heart of, enjoying all the craic.

“Back in Fermanagh, Stephen was also at the heart of all our family get-togethers, which now will never be the same. All the kids loved him, and always went to Uncle Stephen to have fun and mess about; Stephen was a big messer.

“His famous words when he went into anybody’s house were, ‘Are you making tea? Is that the kettle I can hear on?’ He was never short of a quickfire fun comment.”

At his funeral on Wednesday, Ryan said Stephen was one of the “kindest people you ever could meet”. He added: “Nothing was too much hassle for him. He was full of love and happiness, and would do anything for anybody.

“As we gather here today to remember and commemorate his life, we bid him farewell as we mourn the loss of a lively, dignified soul. A soul that brought joy and fulfilment to many, and whose legacy will live on forever.”

Hundreds of messages of condolences have been sent to the family, while the community has rallied around them in their time of grief.

All this is something that Ryan says the family are deeply grateful for, and such support from so many has given them strength through this dark time.

Stephen, beloved husband of Fiona (nee O’Connell), loving father of Alannah and Odhrán, was laid to rest on Wednesday, April 28.

A dear son of Noreen and the late Oliver, brother of Caroline, Jacqueline, Marian, Theresa and Ryan, he is sadly missed by his loving family; parents-in-law, Winnie and Mick; brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.