Tributes paid to 'best known Kerryman'

Tue, Oct 5, 2010, 01:00

Tributes have been paid today to rugby great Moss Keane, who has died following a long battle with cancer. The iconic Munster, Ireland and Lions hero, a native of Currow in Co Kerry, was 62.

Expressing his condolences, the Taoiseach said Keane, "one of the great gentleman of Irish sport", would be sadly missed by his many fans and admirers worldwide.

"Moss Keane was one of the finest rugby players Ireland has ever produced. He was among rugby's best known characters and a legend of the game at home and abroad, representing Munster, Ireland and the British & Irish Lions with great distinction. He was also an accomplished gaelic footballer in his younger days," Mr Cowen said

"Moss’s loss will be felt most deeply by those who knew him best. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Moss’s family, his wife Anne, daughters Sarah and Anne Marie, and his friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a ainm dhílis."

Minister for Sport Mary Hanafin also conveyed her condolences. “Moss will be especially remembered as one of Kerry and Ireland’s greatest-ever sporting heroes. A latecomer to rugby, he made his debut for Ireland against France in Paris in 1974 and became a permanent fixture in the team for a decade," she said.

"Moss was one of Ireland’s best-loved figures, both on and off the pitch, a gentle giant of Irish rugby."

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny also expressed his sympathies to the Keane family.

"Moss was held in great affection in the hearts of rugby fans around the country and was universally popular both inside and outside the game," Mr Kenny said.

Fine Gael Kerry North TD and longtime friend Jimmy Deenihan said: “I knew Moss for decades, and today is a sad day for all involved in sport, particularly in Kerry.

“Moss and I retained a long friendship since our youth and I had the pleasure of playing on the Kerry junior team with him as well as against him on the rugby pitch. It is no exaggeration to say that Moss was one of the best known Kerrymen of his generation and he retained a deep affection for Currow where he was born," said the Fine Gael spokesman on sport and longtime friend of Keane.

“Many will remember the central role Moss played in Munster’s historic victory over New Zealand. I met him after the game and saw first hand just how proud he was of Munster and all the supporters who played their part. Moss will be sadly missed.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Labour spokeswoman Mary Upton, who said Keane had been an "iconic figure" in Irish sport, representing his county, province and country with distinction. She added he had always held in the highest regard, both on and off the field.

The IRFU described Keane as a great character and influence, both on and off the pitch, who "put his heart and soul into whatever jersey he wore".

In a statement, IRFU president Caleb Powell said: "Quite simply Irish rugby has lost one of its most genuine characters and legends of the game."

"Lansdowne, Munster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions all benefited from his presence and ensured that his reputation will live long in the memories of not only Irish rugby, but world rugby."

Goal chief executive John O'Shea also paid tribute to the late Kerryman.

“Moss Keane was a Goal patron for more than 30 years and acted as an ambassador for the organisation at many sporting functions and other events. He travelled overseas with Goal and visited our street children’s programme in Calcutta, where he was visibly moved by what he saw.

"He was a magnificent humanitarian and remained concerned about those less fortunate than him right until the end. Goal has lost a great champion, and the poor have lost a wonderful friend,” Mr O'Shea said.

A former GAA player – Keane represented Kerry up to U-21 level and won the Sigerson Cup while at college in UCC – Keane won his first cap for Ireland against France in 1974 and would win 50 more over the next decade.

The second-row forward was a key member of the side that claimed the Triple Crown in 1982.

He is survived by his wife Anne and his two daughters Sarah and Anne Marie.