English soccer club Aston Villa has confirmed that a minute’s applause will be held on St. Stephens Day (Dec 26) to mark the life of Jody O’Reilly. The young Irishman and life-long supporter of the club was run over and killed in a hit-and run incident in Birmingham, England on Dec 15.
The Irishman, originally from Leixlip in Co Kildare, had moved to Wolverhampton near Birmingham to study.
He attended matches at Villa Park to see his beloved team and the club will honor O'Reilly with a a tribute to him – a minute’s applause before their game against Crystal Palace.
The young college student was hit by a car just hours before he was due to see his beloved Villa play Manchester United last Sunday. Friends of Jody began a campaign in which they asked the club to honor him and the club granted his friends' wish.
Although they had originally asked for a minute’s silence, the club will make it an applause instead. Villa issued the following statement:
“The Club extends its sincerest condolences to the O'Reilly family and to Jody's many friends following this tragic loss of life in the hours leading up to our game against Manchester United.
"Jody had tickets for the game and in the three years since he first came over from Ireland - having selected his university course in 2010 so he could be as close as possible to Villa Park - he had become a regular attender at Villa games.
"We will be holding a minute's applause prior to kick-off against Crystal Palace on Boxing Day in respect of his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."
The Mirror reports that a strong social media campaign was started by the young Irishman's family and friends in a bid to have his life remembered by the club. His best friend, Ritchie Cartwright Ball, launched the on-line campaign to have the club honor his friend at their game against Crystal Palace on Thursday.
He said: “Jody was always at the forefront of everything that went on, he was one in a billion. He was the life and soul of the party.
“Jody was everyone’s friend. You wouldn’t meet anybody who didn’t know him and like him.
“There were people at the uni [college] who came from India and had never been in the country before. Jody helped them to learn English and interact.
“He changed the lives of so many people.”
Over 10,000 have backed the Facebook campaign since it was launched on Friday. Villa players past and present, including Brad Guzan and Stiliyan Petrov, have the appeal on Twitter.
Ritchie said: “Jody was a Villa fan his whole life, his whole family are Irish Villa fans. That’s why he came to Wolverhampton so he could be close to Villa, that was his main motivation.”
The Facebook page has over 12,000 likes and the Twitter campaign got huge traction, which led to the club taking notice of the movement.
A fitting tribute for a young man who lived for this club.