Main » 2008 » January » 4 » Family and fans mourn O'Donnell
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Family and fans mourn O'Donnell
Family and fans mourn O'Donnell
Guard of honour at funeral
The Motherwell youth team formed the guard of honour
Hundreds of sporting figures and fans gathered for the funeral of footballer Phil O'Donnell, who died after a match on Saturday.

The 35-year-old Motherwell captain collapsed during a match against Dundee United and was pronounced dead a short time later in Wishaw General Hospital.

A post-mortem examination revealed he had died from heart failure.

The Requiem Mass at St Mary's Church in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, got under way at 1200 GMT.

The service, conducted by Father Henry O'Brien, was for family and friends only but dozens of fans arrived outside the church to pay their respects, two hours before it began.

A guard of honour was formed by the Motherwell youth team for the arrival at the church of the player's grieving widow, Eileen, and their four children, who each carried a single rose.

He made time for everyone and we all felt very comfortable in his company. He is an example to us all
Chris McCart
Former Motherwell captain

Two of O'Donnell's nephews, both footballers, were among the family mourners - David Clarkson, who plays for Motherwell and was on the pitch when his uncle collapsed, and Stephen O'Donnell, who plays for St Mirren.

More than 500 mourners, in all, attended the event.

Former team-mate and Motherwell captain Chris McCart was among those to read a tribute to O'Donnell during the service.

Recalling how he had first met O'Donnell when he turned professional, McCart said: "He was a young, skinny, 16-year-old lad but even then he showed a great maturity and positive attitude in everything he did.

"As a person he was approachable, with no airs or graces. He made time for everyone and we all felt very comfortable in his company. He is an example to us all."

McCart, who captained Motherwell to their Scottish Cup triumph in 1991, spoke of how O'Donnell was a massive karaoke fan who regularly entertained his team-mates with Neil Diamond songs on nights out, with his nephew Clarkson on backing vocals.

He said a good example of how down-to-earth O'Donnell was came when he stood in the rain to watch Scotland's recent match with Italy on a television in a shop window after attending a charity function in Glasgow with his wife.

'Family man'

McCart added: "Phil didn't have a ticket for the game so he decided to nip out to a bar to see the match. Unfortunately so had everyone else.

"So there was Phil standing outside a shop in the pouring rain watching the match as an ordinary member of the Tartan Army. This was typical of the man."

Jack and Helen Reid, from Lanark, came to pay their respects to a "true gentleman".

Mr Reid, 54, said: "He was a real family man and a tribute to Scottish football. I've been following him since he was a boy and everything he did was perfect."

Phil O'Donnell order of service
Fans gathered outside the church service

"He had a lot of time for the fans," added Mrs Reid, 62.

"It's like a death in the family. He was a great footballer and never forgot his roots."

Derek Moore, 33, a Motherwell fan for 25 years, from Carfin, added: "When Motherwell won the Scottish Cup in 1991 and he scored one of the goals, it was one of the greatest days of my life as a Motherwell fan."

A large number of figures from the footballing world arrived at the church, including Celtic captain Stephen McManus, O'Donnell's former assistant manager at Celtic, Murdo MacLeod, and former Motherwell manager Maurice Malpas.

Former Celtic team-mates Peter Grant and Pat Bonner were also there, along with Everton striker and former Motherwell player James McFadden.

O'Donnell's Motherwell team-mates arrived an hour before the start of the service, led by manager Mark McGhee.

Jack McConnell, Scotland's former first minister, and Birmingham City and former Scotland manager Alex McLeish also attended.

Man wearing a Motherwell football shirt
A number of supporters turned up to pay their respects

Outside the church lay wreaths from football supporters and clubs across the UK.

O'Donnell's former club Sheffield Wednesday and Scots football legends John Collins and Tommy Burns were represented.

One floral tribute outside the church read: "The best Beat The Goalie ever."

After the Mass, O'Donnell's coffin was carried from the church to the waiting hearse.

His former Celtic and Sheffield Wednesday team-mate Simon Donnelly was among the pallbearers.

As the cortege headed off to Bent Cemetery for the burial, the crowd outside broke into spontaneous applause.

Several matches were postponed following O'Donnell's death as a mark of respect.

The player collapsed as he was substituted during his side's 5-3 defeat of Dundee United at Fir Park on Saturday. He died at 1718 GMT.

Motherwell owner John Boyle said the club was "shocked to the core" by the loss of "an inspirational person".
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