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Funeral of Jack brings memories back for Charlie

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Charlie O'Leary

Charlie O'Leary

SPORTSFILE

Charlie O'Leary

The memories came tumbling back for Charlie O'Leary as he watched the funeral of Jack Charlton yesterday.

"It was a sad day," said Charlie as he reflected on the treasured years he spent with Jack as the Republic of Ireland's kit man.

"He was a wonderful, wonderful man. And so generous in so many ways," stated Charlie.

"I have never met anyone who had such man-management skills. It was amazing. He could tell you off without making you feel bad. And he could lift you up without you getting ahead of yourself.

"One word from him could rise you off the floor, to make you feel good about yourself. He understood people. And he knew how to deal with them.

"He was so kind. And I can recall so many kind gestures that he did when he was the Irish manager. Things that nobody would see or hear about.

"I remember one time when one of the Irish players arrived in from England a couple of days before the game. He was very worried because his wife was expecting. He told Mick Byrne.

"Mick went in to tell Jack, and Jack told the player to go back home to England. And to report back in a couple of days because he was picked in the team!

"Then there was the other time when the same player's father was seriously ill.

"He didn't want to trouble Jack again. But Mick Byrne went to Jack to explain the situation.

"The player's father was living in Dublin, so Jack gave the player a loan of his car to visit his father. And told him he could stay overnight in the family home and to report back in the morning for training.

"He did so many things like that. He was a beautiful human being. And such a genuine person.

"We had such great times. A fantastic ten years. So many highlights. The big results, getting to the World Cups.

"So much stands out. Beating England on that famous afternoon. The World Cup in Italy.

"And then getting to meet the Pope. Meeting the Pope was unbelievable. Something that we'll never forget.

"And it was Jack that gave us that chance. A non-Catholic Englishman!"

Charlie is delighted to look back on the old matches when they show them on the television.

"It was just such a brilliant time for the country. You can see how happy the people were.

"How they enjoyed themselves. And we have so much to be grateful to Jack for."

When Charlie got word of Jack's death, he rang the family.

"I was talking to his wife, Pat, and all the children. Such lovely people.

"Jack was a great family man. The grandchildren absolutely adored him.

And it was so nice to hear the family telling stories about him at the service.

"It was such a special time for the country. And it was a privilege to be involved with such a gentleman as Jack Charlton.

"We'll never forget him."