At tonight's SSE Airtricity League fixture in Richmond Park against Limerick, St Patrick's Athletic FC will honour the late Niall Hannigan who passed away last week.
Niall contributed to St Patrick's Athletic FC at many levels including schoolboy level, working with the club as a supporter liaison officer as well as with the Patron Saints.
In our midweek edition of 'The Saint' for our fixture against Bohemian FC, Ronan O'Flaherty wrote this piece paying tribute to 'Hano'.
St Patrick's Athletic has been in mourning for the past week, following the desperately sad passing of Niall 'Hano' Hannigan.
There is nothing left to be said that hasn't already been said about this great man. As a fan of St Patrick's Athletic, he was an inspiration to those he sat beside in the stands and terraces up and down the country.
Whether it was organising a bus for supporters at short notice, or supporting Pat's in a far-flung destination for a Europa League clash, or even coaching the stars of tomorrow, Hano had been there, done that and worn the t-shirt.
He loved this club and cherished the friendships that he had built in the act of supporting it. He loved the atmosphere of a Dublin derby and thrived on out-singing opposition fans when we were outnumbered on away trips to Cork, Sligo, Derry and everywhere in between.
Last Thursday, Hano's funeral in Walkinstown was a sea of red as Pat's fans turned up in exactly the attire Hano would have wanted them to turn up in. The guard of honour, formed by the Pat's players and management outside the church, was very touching. I just hope the love and affection on show for Hano last Thursday has provided his family with the strength that they will need in the coming weeks, months and years.
At times like this, football's importance drops down a few notches, although it does provide a welcome distraction.
Bill Shankly was a truly great man, but even great men can't be right all of the time. Shankly, who transformed Liverpool from a middle-of-the-road club into the biggest force in British football, once stated that football was more important than life itself.
Of course he was wrong. Football is a great game; the beautiful game even. But it's only beautiful because of the great people associated with it. And, in his own way, Niall Hannigan helped make football beautiful right here at Richmond Park.
It is tragic that such a young man, with so much to live for, has been taken away from us. Football is beautiful because of beautiful people like Niall Hannigan, not the other way around. Shankly is an icon, but he wasn't always right.
Tonight's match is a very welcome distraction. However, to hype up its importance beyond that, given what's happened in the last two weeks, would feel very wrong.
The last time Pat's and Bohs locked horns resulted in a 1-0 victory for the Saints. We'd gladly take the same outcome tonight.
FIFA have grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks. Some commentators are suggesting football is a sick game at the moment. How wrong they are.
Football has never been better. It's the administrators that are sick. In 20 years' time, will people be talking about how awful Sepp Blatter was? Of course not; fans don't care about the suits. In twenty years, people will still be talking about the brilliance of Lionel Messi. To judge this great game on the dealings of shady individuals in darkened rooms, rather than magic moments on a football pitch, is daft.
Football is more beautiful than ever before.
By Ronan O'Flaherty
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