Tuesday, January 07, 2020

“Ideas cascaded from Danny. He didn’t know reverse gear.”

TO write of Danny McGrath in the past tense is obscene. That so great a force of nature, that such a source of unrelenting energy, is no longer here is incredibly difficult to fathom.

It’s a sentiment that will linger at the next edition of those events in Dungarvan and West Waterford that Danny and his camera were synonymous with. Be it the Camphire International Horse Trials, the Dungarvan Show or his own McGrath Clan Gatherings, Danny’s absence will be strikingly and painfully felt.

Danny, who died unexpectedly on December 22, was, in the words of his good friend Eamon Keane, Dungarvan’s own ‘Pied Piper’.

Delivering the eulogy at Danny’s Requiem Mass at St Mary’s Church, Dungarvan on Saint Stephen’s Day, Eamon told mourners: “The camera, as we saw in the symbols (offered earlier) was synonymous with Danny – and we all followed. From Whitechurch to Wyoming, from Leamybrien to Land’s End, people followed Danny. Why? Because he had the most amazing love, not just for his own life, but for your lives. He had such a great interest in people. There’d be great slagging had when it came to people seeing themselves (in Danny’s social shots) in the (Dungarvan) Leader after being out in Minnie’s and so on. He got the best of us and he gave the best of himself to us too.”

Danny was born in 1962 in Dromroe East, Cappoquin, a short drive from where his remains were interred at Affane Cemetery on December 26, “and he had an incredible life, packing in so much in such a short space of time”.

Danny McGrath turned his hand to many ventures, be it as a music promoter, a track and field athlete, a rugby player with both the Cappoquin and Dungarvan clubs, as a soccer and GAA player and, in more recent years, as photographer, journalist and totem for the McGrath Clan Gathering.

To the wider Waterford community, Danny was best known through his sports photography, capturing many great images from some of Munster Rugby’s greatest victories and he also had a long-standing association with Waterford Ladies Football.

“He was as good a sports photographer as I have come across,” said Eamon Keane. “His picture of Peter Stringer diving over for his try in the (2006) Heineken Cup Final was one of his very best and you’ll find copies of it hung in frames all around the country – and it deserves to be.”

Danny told great stories, some of which bordered on the incredulous, to those who didn’t know him well. But Danny did socialise over the years with some great Irish luminaries such as George Best and Paul McGrath, and was comfortable in the most estimable of political, artistic and sporting company. He revelled in the company of those who held court and was a dab hand when unofficially chairing various social and media gatherings.

The ideas cascaded from Danny. He never, ever experienced subject matter deficit. He was an enthusiastic and ever willing rolling stone, gathering ideas and friends wherever life took him. Danny may have settled into fourth gear while driving a little too comfortably, as Eamon humorously mentioned during his eulogy – but this was one man who was never in reverse gear.

To anyone who knew Danny, phone calls with him were always frenetic. Four to five different projects would be referenced and more often than not, he was calling you having just been at one event before heading off – in fourth gear – to another.

For near on 14 years, there was one person referenced in every single phone conversation Danny had with me: his daughter Olivia, whom he adored. They had an incredible bond. Olivia became Danny’s apprentice, so much so that she would regularly direct Danny during a work gig when it came to what type of photo to shoot! Blessed with her mother Lijana’s resolve and her father’s zeal, Olivia will keep the McGrath Flag flying proudly for Danny. He could not have been prouder of her.

During his homily, Father Pat Gear PP said that words fail in the face of unexpected death. “And when words fail us we turn to each other and to family, we turn to our neighbours and we turn to the presentation of symbols (as part of the Requiem Mass) that speak for us… and we turn to our faith. We wish there was a text book to steer us through, but there’s not. All we can do is come together as we are.”

Fr Gear was joined in the celebration of Danny’s Requiem Mass by Canon William Ryan PP, Father Bobby Fletcher PP, Father Matt Cooney and Father Paddy Ryan.

The symbols were presented by Sean Byrne (camera), brother John (Munster and Dungarvan rugby jerseys), Eamon Keane (an international media card), Katie Hale (the McGrath Clan and Dungarvan Town Council flags) and mother-in-law Vanda (a family photograph).

The readings were delivered by Danny’s cousins Anne Matie Cross and Mary Hale, while the Prayers of the Faithful were read by cousins Bernadette Butler Leyland, Sally Ann O’Grady, John Ryan and friend Paul Mooney. The gifts were presented by Danny’s immediate family, Lijana and Olivia.

Soloist Andrea Cunningham was accompanied at the Requiem Mass by organist Dina Walshe.

Danny McGrath, predeceased by parents Danny Snr and Esther, is survived by partner Lijana, daughter Olivia, siblings John, Albert and Ann, aunt Patricia Edwards, uncle Tom Butler, mother-in-law Vanda Kudzmiene, sister-in-law Inga, brother-in-law Lytis, his extended family and wide circle of friends from sport, civic life, the arts and journalism.

The time we had Danny for was so full of fun and good humour – but it just wasn’t long enough. Solas na bhFlaitheas dá anam dílis.

Dungarvan resident and well-known photographer Danny McGrath, who died unexpectedly on December 22nd.

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