Huge crowd of mourners gather to pay tribute to tragic young mother killed in crash

The funeral of Nicola Kenny at the Cathedral of The Assumption, Thurles today
The funeral of Nicola Kenny at the Cathedral of The Assumption, Thurles today

Tragic new mother Nicola Kenny had a great "zest for life" and was a get-up-and-go person who loved to whisk people off to a concert or take children to a Disney On Ice show.

There were scenes of heartbreaking grief at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Thurles, Co Tipperary for the funeral today of Nicola (26) who died a day after giving birth to her daughter Lily Rose.

Mourners heard that her death has left a vacuum of the great love she would have bestowed on her baby daughter Lily Rose.

That vacuum must now be filled by her family and friends, said chief celebrant Fr Vincent Stapleton.

"You must be Nicola's arms to hold her, her mouth to praise her and lift her up, Nicola's ears to listen to her," he said.

Her family and friends have that task so that Lily Rose, like her mother, will live life to the full, said Fr Stapleton.

Nicola was killed in a crash on the hard shoulder on the M8 motorway between Cashel and Cahir last Monday.

Ms Kenny was in the backseat of a car being driven by her aunt, Irene Whelan, when they pulled in to allow Nicola to take a phone call about her new daughter Lily Rose, who had been transferred from South Tipperary General Hospital to Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin after developing a temperature.

The hospital had rung her to say that Lily Rose was out of danger and could be transferred back to Clonmel.

It was just after the phone conversation ended when a truck struck the back of the car.

Nicola's mother, Ann, also injured in the collision, attended the funeral in a wheelchair with her husband Patrick and son Patrick junior.

Irene Whelan remains in a serious condition in hospital, with severe chest injuries.

Two cheerful bunches of pink and red polka dot Minnie Mouse balloons flanked the main entrance inside the cathedral for the funeral. Nicola had a great fondness for Disney characters.

A bouquet of pink flowers spelling out the word 'Friend' again featured Minnie Mouse, with a card reading "With love from all the girls."

Symbols of her "great zest for life" were brought to the altar.

Tegan her godchild brought a Mini Mouse headband, signifying her love of Disney cartoons.

Annemarie, her sister-in-law brought an Ollie Murs CD, a symbol of her love of music and, particularly, of Murs.

Clodagh, her cousin brought a pair of runners - signifying her love of fashion and her "many, many" pairs of runners.

Nellie and Aisling her best friends brought up a framed photo of all Nicola's friends whom she loved dearly.

The funeral mass was co-celebrated by archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Kieran O' Reilly.

Fr Stapleton said Nicola's sudden passing had left a dark cloud hanging over every one of us.

But he said he could not speak well enough of the support given to the family at this time.

Nicola had been just days into motherhood and had just received the good news about Lily Rose when her own life came to a sudden end, he commented.

But he said that in her short 26 years, the young woman had made "so many heart connections."

"She was a beacon of life to her family and to a wide circle of friends and their children," said Fr Stapleton.

Friends wearing Minnie Mouse t-shirts formed a guard of honour in the church, with the spotty balloons floating aloft, while another guard of honour outside was held by colleagues who had worked with Ms Kenny at Tesco.