Sizeable crowds from the county’s local sporting organisations travelled to Offaly last week to pay their last respects to Longford rugby star Derek Bannon.
The hugely popular 28-year-old died following a car crash in Co Sligo last Monday (February 11) in a tragedy which has this week plunged both the club and many of Derek’s former team-mates into sadness.
A second man, who hails from Killoe, was taken to hospital for minor injuries. Details about his condition were not disclosed this week as gardai look for clues as to what may have caused the incident, near Drumfin at around 9pm.
Meanwhile, a number of mourners from Longford Rugby Club attended both the removal and funeral of the talented centre at St Peter’s Church, Rhode, Co Offaly last Thursday and Friday. Several members formed a guard of honour at Derek’s removal with a similarly strong representation also being present at his funeral less than 24 hours later.
Club representative Derek Turner said news of the tragedy had stunned both officials and playing personnel in equal measure.
“Derek was a very popular member of the club and was a very valuable member so this is very sad news to be getting,” he said.
“He played with the club from U10s all the way up to senior level and was a successful member on the Moyne School team growing up.”
Those sentiments were further endorsed later on in the week when the club issued a heartfelt tribute on its website to the prison officer known more affectionately as ‘Banno’.
“Derek started playing rugby in Moyne CS after moving from Rhode to Longford and quickly became a fixture in Longford RFC underage teams,” read the statement. “Derek soon graduated to play for the senior team, where he established himself at first centre.
“Banno was known for his huge tackles and ball carrying ability and was an integral part of the Longford sides that gained promotion from the old Division 4 to Division 1B, where the Longford 1st XV again find themselves in with a chance of promotion.
“Unfortunately due to taking up work as a prison officer, Derek was unable to commit to playing over the last two seasons, but was keen to return to playing and was a regular supporter throughout the season. Derek was a very loyal and dependable friend and was always involved in the social side of the club. The President, Board and all members of Longford RFC would like to express their profound sympathies to all Derek’s family and friends. He will be sorely missed.”
The late Derek Bannon is survived by his parents Frank and Ann, brother Kevin and his sister, Laura as well as a wide and extended network of family and friends.
A minute’s silence was observed prior to last Sunday’s cup match against Enniscorthy at CPL Park, Longford. Fittingly, in a stirring performance, the home side recorded a win against the holders of the cup to advance to the next round where they face Cill Dara.