A NORTHSIDE community united in grief recently to mourn the death of a hugely popular teenager who lost his battle with cancer.
Daniel Leahy, from Kilbarrack, passed away surrounded by his family in Beaumont Hospital on August 16 after a two-year battle with the rare bone cancer known as Ewing’s sarcoma.
The passing of the life-long player and supporter of Naomh Barrog GAA Club sparked an outpouring of grief from the local community.
Daniel’s heartbroken parents, Gwen and Gerry Leahy, who live at Briarfield Grove, requested that donations be made in place of funeral flowers and were overwhelmed to learn that over e2,800 was raised as a result.
According to Daniel’s grieving mum Gwen, the money will benefit other cancer patients through the Ross Nugent Foundation, which was set up in memory of the 18-year-old from Malahide who also died as a result of Ewing’s sarcoma.
“Daniel was such a great young fella,” Gwen told Northside People.
“He was always smiling and had a real dry sense of humour. He was always so positive, upbeat and determined even when he was going through unbearable pain and chemo. He bravely fought the cancer right up until the end.”
Daniel, known as ‘Dano’ to his friends, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma two years ago. He underwent eight months of chemotherapy and had surgery to remove three ribs and a tumour as part of his treatment.
He went into remission in February 2012. To celebrate he got a tattoo on his back with the slogan: ‘only the strong survive’ and the date on which he was given the all clear.
Heartbreakingly, the aggressive cancer returned less than three months later.
“We were never told his condition was terminal but I think because of a parent’s intuition we knew the outlook wasn’t good,” Gwen explained.
“He was in severe pain at this stage and had tumours on his spinal cord and on his skull.
“He was very lucky to have very good friends and all those at Naomh Barrog. He’d try to get down there to watch training or a match from the sidelines even though sometimes he’d just be home from chemotherapy.
“The club and his friends, who were tremendous, gave him a great lift by always being there for him.
“We held his wake in our house over two days and it was like his 18th birthday all over again with as many if not more people coming to visit.
“We’re absolutely heartbroken. I don’t think it’s even sunk in yet but for us the most important thing is that Daniel’s not in any more pain.”
Gwen also wished to thank the nurses in Beaumont Hospital who cared for him throughout his illness.
Daniel’s grandfather, Tony Connolly, who shared a close relationship with the teen, described how he was “deeply touched” and “overwhelmed” by the outpouring of grief and support for the family.
“I’ve never before seen so many teenagers being so open with their emotions and grief,” he stated.
“It was very touching but heartbreaking to see.
“I miss Daniel dearly. He was a lovely boy - a bit like me, into mischief and a bit of craic.”
Daniel’s close friends, who carried his coffin from his home to St John the Evangelist Church in Kilbarrack, donned Dublin jerseys with ‘Dano’ and the number 19 on the back.
One of Daniel’s closest friends also got a tattoo with the slogan: ‘sometimes even the strongest don’t survive’.
Daniel lived and breathed Naomh Barrog and played football and hurling with the club and also refereed junior matches.
Terry Keogh, who coached Daniel’s team since the teen first joined the club at the age of six, said he would be always be remembered by all connected with Naomh Barrog.
“Daniel was a very popular young man and was held in high esteem by all which I think was evident by the number of people who attended his wake and funeral,” he said.
“He will never be forgotten and will always be remembered.”
Naomh Barrog chairman Liam Byrne intends to run the Dublin City Marathon in memory of Daniel to raise further funds for the Ross Nugent Foundation.
It’s hoped that the money raised for the Foundation following Daniel’s death will finance the purchase of a new blood pressure machine for St Clare’s Oncology Ward at Beaumont Hospital.
For more information or to donate, visit www.rossnugentfoundation.ieMore Information - http://www.rossnugentfoundation.ie