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Special tribute Tears for tragic cliff fall victim Conor King as he is laid to rest on his 23rd birthday

His mother, Maura, broke down as she wished her son a happy birthday as she was flanked on the altar at his funeral by her husband and daughter.

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The funeral of Conor King of Broadale, Douglas in Cork.

The funeral of Conor King of Broadale, Douglas in Cork.

The funeral of Conor King of Broadale, Douglas in Cork.

A STUDENT who died in a freak cliff fall tragedy was hailed as "our beautiful boy" who "will never grow old" by his heartbroken parents and sister as his Requiem Mass was staged on his 23rd birthday.

Conor King (22) died after stumbling into a clifftop blowhole in west Cork on Saturday evening as he was out camping with friends - and fell over 20m down onto rocks in a sea cave below.

His Requiem Mass also heard a special tribute paid to his friend, Gary Barrett, who bravely tried to go to his aid and rescue him after the freak accident.

His mother, Maura, broke down as she wished her son a happy birthday as she was flanked on the altar by her husband and daughter.

"Conor, Conor - it is an honour to be your families. Help us to be as 'King' as you. The very last 's' is for success. Conor succeeded in squashing 100 years into 23 years. Happy 23rd birthday our beautiful boy," she sobbed.

Mr King's Requiem Mass was celebrated by Fr Sean O'Sullivan of the Harbour Parishes at St Patrick's Church in Rochestown - what would have been the student's 23rd birthday.

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Conor King who lost his life in a tragic accident near Garretstown beach, Co Cork.

Conor King who lost his life in a tragic accident near Garretstown beach, Co Cork.

Conor King who lost his life in a tragic accident near Garretstown beach, Co Cork.

The young man is survived by his heartbroken parents Eamon and Maura, his sister, Áine, as well as grandparents, uncles and aunts.

His family has asked that, instead of flowers, people make a donation to the West Cork Rapid Response Service or the West Cork Underwater Search and Rescue.

Mrs King told mourners she was sitting on Conor's bed and trying to write a funeral tribute on his college jotter when she got a moving poem written by her sister, Denise, called 'Conor King's Family.'

She said that each letter in it spelled out the true values and loves of her son's life.

"Nobody wants to have to do this," she said as she fought back tears.

"We tried to write this speech but we couldn't do it - nothing was coming. We were forcing it but it is just not us. I was too tired last night. I woke up at 4.10am and I got into Conor's bed and I took out his jotter and I couldn't think of anything to say. Then I got a text from my sister and she had written this poem."

She said the poem underlined the values and things Conor held dear in his life - caring, original, naughty and nice, opportunistic, respect, kayak, island, noble "you are a King, afterall", glory, support, friends, adoration, mystery, infinite, love of the sea and young "never to grow old."

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"(Conor) had so many families - we saw all his families on the road coming down here today (with guards of honour) - the Gaelscoil, Christians (Brothers College), Colaiste an Phiarsaigh, rugby, surfing, Sunday's Well Swimming Club and the Rochestown Park Hotel."

"Conor had to grow into a man so very fast - so it is such a privilege for the Rochestown Park to share their experience of him as a working man because I would never have known that."

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The funeral of Conor King of Broadale, Douglas in Cork (Photo: Independent.ie)

The funeral of Conor King of Broadale, Douglas in Cork (Photo: Independent.ie)

The funeral of Conor King of Broadale, Douglas in Cork (Photo: Independent.ie)

She said she would treasure all the stories about Conor shared by his friends over the recent difficult days.

Mrs King fought back tears as she said her daughter, Aine, has new brothers and sisters in her son's devoted friends.

"Every single one of the boys on Saturday - (we are) forever grateful.

"We thank you from the bottom of our hearts (for being with Conor)."

She also paid tribute to the emergency services who raced to help her son on Saturday night.

"(I am) so grateful that they were there for my boy," she said.

A special tribute was also paid by Conor's friend, Daragh.

"I stand here on behalf of all Conor's friends. It goes without saying that Conor was special. He was constantly making those around him laugh although the majority of those jokes were about him. It is hard to describe the impact he had on every one of us. Conor loved nothing more than being with his friends and we loved nothing more than being with him," he said.

"I know Conor cared for us all and we should take some comfort from the fact he would want us to keep on smiling. Personally and on behalf of all Conor's friends I cannot thank Gary enough - it takes a special type of person to do what he did and knowing that he (Conor) was not alone brings us all some comfort, his bravery will never be forgotten."

"Everyone who was there that night played their part - and for that I say thank you. To Eamon, Maura, Aine and his family, I cannot thank you enough for bringing Conor into our lives. The mark he made is one of joy and laughter and he will be missed but the stories will last forever. Happy birthday, Kinger - rest easy pal."

Fr O'Sullivan said Conor was a gift to his family and to his community.

Mr King was a trained lifeguard and a third year student at Munster Technology University (MTU).

As a mark of respect, the MTU flag was flown at half mast at the Bishopstown campus.

The young man was camping with friends outside Garretstown and not far from the Old Head of Kinsale when the tragedy occurred.

It is believed the young man didn't see the entrance to the blow-hole on the clifftop - a crevice leading to a deep sea cave - as he walked along the headland in fading light late on Saturday evening.

A friend bravely went to his rescue - but also had to be rescued from the deep crevice.

Tributes were paid to Mr King who lived in Douglas but had attended secondary school in Glanmire and Christian Brothers College before going to MTU.

A keen sportsman, he was working over recent times in the leisure centre of the Rochestown Park Hotel.

In a statement, the hotel said the tragedy was "devastating" for his family, friends and colleagues.

"Saying Conor was a lifeguard was doing him an injustice because, as well as looking after the safety of patrons using the pool, he treated any minor scrapes that would happen from time to time in a busy pool, helped to look after the leisure centre plant room, did health and safety chemical checks on the pool and, last but not least, looked after his beloved fish tank."

Leisure centre manager Lorraine Noonan considered him "a completely dependable guy."

"He will be sorely missed by all hotel staff members but particularly the team he worked with in the leisure centre. Working in the leisure centre since he was 18, staff members past and present are in shock with his untimely passing."

Gardaí are treating the matter as a tragic accident and a file will now be prepared for the Cork Coroner for an inquest to be staged next year.

MTU President Professor Maggie Cusack said Conor "made a lasting impression on all who knew him and will be sadly missed."

Conor was a year three student on the BEng in Biomedical Engineering programme in MTU and whose final year project was centred on a prosthetic device for children which could be adjusted as the child grew.

"Outside of MTU, Conor had a keen interest in rugby and had a passion for water sports and water safety," she said.

"Conor was a dedicated student who was very popular amongst his wider class group and was well liked by all staff in MTU with whom he interacted."

"My thoughts and heartfelt sympathy are with his parents, sister and extended family as well as the loss being felt by his classmates, friends and staff across the university."

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