Hundreds packed St Patrick’s Church in Cullyhanna where Canon Michael Toner, in concelebration with Fr Malachy Conlon from Co Louth, said Requiem Mass for the 31-year-old doctor who worked in the Southern Health Trust in the anaesthetics department.
Sean’s cousin Barry Quinn gave a eulogy describing him as a great doctor and shared how Sean had fallen in love with Debbie and about their sadness that instead of their wedding they were attending Sean’s wake and funeral.
Sean was the youngest of seven children, born in September 24, 1991 to Frances and Charles McMahon having been pre-deceased by his sister Mary in March 1984. He went to St Patrick’s Primary School, Cullyhanna where ‘there were the first stirrings of a love of learning’. He then attended Abbey Grammar School in Newry before going to study Medicine at Queen’s University in Belfast, studies which eventually led to Sean specialising in anaesthetics.
Canon Toner said: “During this time Sean met and fell in love with Debbie, getting engaged on June 2, 2021. And as we all know had arranged their wedding for two days ago, Friday August 25. They had their new marital home, a bungalow, half built near to Sean’s mum and dad. I am told by those who knew Sean best, Sean said his prayers every night and blessed himself every day when he commenced his shift on the wards in whatever hospital he was attached to.
"Frances was telling over the wake that while Sean was no Luciano Paverotti, when he was a child and accompanying his mum to Dublin to visit his ailing grandfather Sean would sit in the back of the Jeep and sing his heart out all the way to Dublin and all the way home. Perhaps a funnier memory, a clever memory of Sean playing for Cullyhanna against Armagh Harps. When a Harps player tried to wind Sean up commenting that he wasn’t moving very swiftly, Sean replied it was because of all the medals he was carrying in his pockets.
"It is true to say that for Sean McMahon time as we know it has stopped. His existence is on a new shore in closer communion with God. There is much to be thankful for, a hard-working faithful son who was loyal and quietly devoted to his parents, siblings, nephews and nieces. A thankfulness for a life well lived at home and in the medical world. A thankfulness for a fiance who was head-over-heels in love with Debbie. A thankfulness for a son and a brother who lived a decent and good life working diligently in his chosen profession. A thankfulness for the many friends and acquaintances that Sean had, not just locally but further afield in various hospitals across the north. A thankfulness for Sean’s 31 years of good health – a big strong fella who looked after himself. A thankfulness that Sean was so loved and adored by his nieces and nephews. A thankfulness that Sean went to God, that he departed this life on Tuesday past in surroundings he loved in the South Lake Health and Wellbeing Suite.
"On behalf of all the parishioners of Lower Creggan, of Fr Malachy I offer our heartfelt condolences on the death of Sean especially his mum and dad, his fiancee and his siblings.”
Sean’s cousin Barry Quinn said thanked everyone for being here today ‘not just to mourn him but to celebrate what a fantastic young man he was. For Sean to know he is not alone and to be here with Debbie, his fiancee and his family’.
"We have all cried so many tears for Sean since we heard the awful news on Tuesday,” said Barry adding that when he was asked to prepare a eulogy it hit him how hard it would be to share all that Sean had achieved in his life, at only 31.
"I grew up metres from Sean’s family. While I am a good few years older than Sean our families grew up very happily together. Sean was one of seven and I was one of nine. We lived at the top of the hill and Sean at the bottom of the hill. We were always drifting in and out of each other’s lives. We were all roughly the same age, apart from Sean who was the baby of his family so he grew up next to my brother Conor who was the baby in our family. They were best friends in those early years.
"While sitting at the wake house for the past few days I heard so many great stories about Sean – just listening to people’s memories of his antics. I really wish I could invite all of you up here to share stories because there would be so many good stories about Sean,” said Barry, who recalled a story of building a tree house for Sean and Conor, a lost bag of sweets and some ants.
He said there are so many people from different backgrounds attending his funeral as he had touched so many lives. “Sean didn’t really care what walk of life you came from. He treated everyone the same, always with a warm smile and a familiar friendliness and always a cheeky giggle. There was the family man Sean, the great craic friend Sean. His mother Frances told me the other day that Sean referred to himself as ‘great craic Sean’. He sort of had notions of himself. Then when he settle down and was getting married to Debbie and later in life, what he turned into, was the fantastic doctor Sean.
"Sean was into everything. He was always out on the farm with Charles and Terence. He played football for Cullyhanna years ago. He was very dedicated to the club. He was a good man for socialising. He wasn’t afraid to have a pint or two. There’s a few boys there a few rows back who could tell a few not PG stories about Sean. He wasn’t afraid to be the last man standing at the bar. Despite all those good nights out, and there were a lot with Sean, he somehow got good grades – actually he got great grades and ended up going to university to study medicine. That’s also where he found Debbie.
"Sean and Debbie were together for nine years. They met at a very romantic place in Belfast – a chip shop. Debbie said she walked into the chip shop and who was holding audience at the front but Sean holding up the queue. I can just see him holding stage and in came Debbie, probably able to put him back in his box. I have no doubt she didn’t take any of his shenanigans. That was typical of Sean – always having fun,” said Barry adding he had met a friend recently who described Sean as ‘full of banter, he would talk to a wall’.
"Debbie said as soon as she saw him in the chip shop she said to herself, he has to be a medical student, crisp shirt, tan chino trousers. Sean always like to look the part. He had cheeky banter, Sean was never short of confidence and then turning his charm onto Debbie. After talking he convinced her to go for a coffee and when he met Debbie he declared he didn’t even like coffee. But his charm worked and that chip shop romance blossomed.
"As you all know Sean and Debbie were to be married two days ago in the Lough Erne. It was to be a celebration of their love for each other. Today, without doubt, Sean would be nursing a hangover and looking forward to his new life as part of a happily married couple,” he said.
"Sean and I became really good friends in the last number of years. Our paths realigned from when we were younger as we both worked in medicine. He really loved coming to work in Enniskillen where I worked. He loved to come and work when I was there. Even before every shift started at maybe 8am Sean would get his phone out and put the live camera which was showing the progress of his house. He would be counting the blocks that were going up, what was moving there.
He was always tweeking the plans. He really loved to see that house rising out of that field. He was so proud to be moving home – to Oldtown. He mentioned this to me all the time and no doubt he mentioned it to all the patients he saw too – how he was looking forward to being in Cullyhanna with Debbie and being there for his parents, Charles and Frances.
“Sean, he excelled as a doctor. I can’t say enough about Sean as a doctor,” said Barry recalling how, some years ago, one of the medical consultants in Enniskillen said Sean was the best first year doctor he had ever worked with.
"I have had so many doctors who have contacted me praising his character and his ability to stay calm under pressure. He really was that good,” said Barry who read a message from another colleague: ‘Sean was a first year doctor when I was a medical SHO in Enniskillen. I doubt I have met an F1 who made more of an impact to this day yet. A great fell’. “I really felt that message epitomises everything that was fantastic about Sean.
"Sean went into anaesthetic training straight after the first two years of being a doctor. He had completed his consultancy exams, his training, way ahead of time. he really loved anaesthetics. He was always learning, he was always modest. He loved teaching. He was always teaching me at work. It was fantastic when he was there. I would see him come along with an ultrasound machine and he would teach me how to perform procedures better on patients. He really was a wealth of knowledge.
"Sean had big plans with Debbie when he finished his training which would have been in about three years time. He just recently wanted to do some helicopter retrieval work in Australia. Last weekend I recall him showing me his application that he had sent on. I think he was dithering on going for a year. Debbie knew how much of a home bird he was and how he would be missing his family so he compromised to six months.”
Struggling to speak Barry said: “While Sean is not with us, what he has taught me in his passing is to be happy with what you have. He always was. To always be patient and kind to others. To love your family and friends and that is all that’s really important in life.