The funeral of Joe Winston (inset) makes its way to St Eunan's Cathedral on Thursday morning PICTURE BRIAN MC DAID
As the funeral cortege of Joe ‘Dodo’ Winston slowly wound its way towards St. Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny on Thursday morning, it passed a man who stood, head bowed, offering his final respects.
He wore a Donegal jersey as a nod to Joe’s wonderful career as a GAA footballer for club and county.
It was a simple, but lovely gesture. The man would have been at some of those games where Joe was at his brilliant best, kicking points for fun, helping Donegal to glory.
But as Rev. Fr Damien Nejad would remind mourners in his homily at the funeral Mass in St. Eunan’s Cathedral, there was so much more to Joe Winston than just the football.
He was a character, a loyal friend, a family man.
He was generous, loving and such was his warmth, that he had an influence on so many, especially his grandchildren who will miss him so dearly.
There have been many wonderful tributes paid to Joe since news of his passing after a recent illness first emerged on Monday evening.
Most have centred around his sporting talents, and what he gave to the game as a player, coach and manager.
And his fellow members of St. Eunan’s GAA club gave him a wonderful send-off with club members proudly sporting the club colours and lining the way as the funeral left the Cathedral and made its way to Conwal, fittingly passing the club’s home at O’Donnell Park. The club flag flew at half mast as those below stood in silence.
Former work colleagues from the ESB also paid their respects. ESB work vans were dotted in the side roads around the Cathedral, prompting memories of Joe’s working career.
And his friends - and there are so many - were there too. Friends of all ages who will remember his big smile, his warm demeanor. For them, a light has gone out - but his friendship will not be forgotten.
Joe Winston was born in Dungloe on March 19, 1944. His father was a garda and the family moved a short time later to Letterkenny and lived at Ard O’Donnell.
Rev Nejad said Joe’s love of football shone through from a very young age and while he excelled at hurling and soccer (with Arsenal showing an interest at one time), his main love was Gaelic football.
“We’re talking about someone who achieved a lot in the game,” Rev Nejad said.
From the archives - Joe Winston celebrating success with St Eunan's
“He was the second highest scorer in one season for Donegal, only beaten by one player, Michael Murphy in 2014.
“His inter-county career took off in the late 60s and he reached a real high in 1972 as a player on the first Donegal team to win a senior Ulster Championship in Clones that year.
“The family showed me a picture of Joe in Wembley Stadium in 1973. He scored for Donegal against a Great Britain select and this was one of his many great footballing memories.”
Those talents, Rev Nejad said, weren’t confined to the football field.
“Joe has been described to me as a lovely man, a gentle giant, kind, and someone of great faith,” he said, referring to Joe’s attendance at Mass every morning.
And even during the Covid-19 lockdown, he would watch Mass online each day and he also spent time at the Adoration Chapel, often accompanying his sister Breda to pray there.
“When he would travel away with his friends, he would always make sure he would find Sunday Mass,” he said.
Rev Nejad said Joe was kind, and particularly close to his grandchildren.
“He was a character, and had a lot of things going for him but at the same time, he had his suffering to deal with,” he said.
“He lost his daughter Elaine in 2012 and this hit him hard. Parts of him died that day I’m told.
“But it’s how he dealt with it. He put his heart into his faith.”
Rev Nejad said Joe would visit Elaine’s grave at Conwal Cemetery and pray. It gave him hope for the future.
He also lost his dear brother Brendan who died suddenly in Galway while watching Galway win the All Ireland senior hurling final in 2017.
“Talking to people who knew Joe and knew him well through his years of growing up in the town, I’m told that Joe was a very well liked character who never had a bad word for his fellow human being.
“If you were a friend of Joe’s, you had a friend for life.”
Joe will be missed by so many, but especially his sons Kevin and Darren and their mother Mary, grandchildren Rebecca, Oran, Daithí and Ruairí, daughter-in-law Teresa, sister Breda and brothers Tom and Brian, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and a wide circle of family, friends and neighbours.
May he rest in peace.
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