Funeral held for father of Kilkenny hurling captain after farm accident

Johnny Ryan buried in home parish after Mass tributes from friends and family

A hurling medal, a family photograph, a GAA jersey, a farm tag, all symbolising the life of Johnny Ryan, father of Kilkenny All-Ireland winning captain Lester Ryan, were brought to the altar at his funeral Mass.

Mr Ryan died in a farm accident on Wednesday and was buried in his home parish on Saturday afternoon.

Those items brought to the altar by family members represented the main loves of the much-liked 61-year-old’s life.

He was devoted to his wife Lilly and sons Lester, Tom and Liam, mourners heard.


He farmed the land for most of his years and spent much of his “spare” time either playing hurling, looking after teams or keeping the local ground shipshape and stewarding GAA events.

Prayers were said at the funeral Mass for all who have died in farm accidents and also for Derek Tyrrell, a cousin of Kilkenny stars Tommy Walsh and Jackie Tyrrell, who died after falling into the Nore last weekend and who was buried on Saturday in Kilkenny city.

Guards of honour were provided in Clara as the hearse carrying Johnny Ryan’s remains travelled from the family home to the church, as the crowds gathered in the cold, bright morning.

Among those lining the way were members of the Kilkenny hurling panel who draped their jerseys over their shoulders as the coffin passed.

Also present were the Clara GAA juveniles and the local team of 1986 who won the club’s first ever senior county hurling title, with Johnny Ryan at centre-back.

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody was among the mourners, along with star names from the All-Ireland champions who only a few short months ago brought the Liam MacCarthy Cup into the parish, led by their captain and Johnny's son, Lester.

Among the many visitors to the Ryan home in recent days included GAA president Liam O’Neill.

Lester Ryan spoke briefly at the funeral to thank the huge crowd for attending and those who helped in any way “during this very sad occasion” and since Wednesday’s tragedy.

“We’ve receive huge support these last few tough days,” he said.

"The visits of people near and far has genuinely eased the suffering of our family. I particularly want to thank Clara GAA Club and the people of Clara, and the wider GAA community, some of whom went to great lengths to pay their respects in one way or another.

“Daddy, at this time, would not wish to me to plamás him from the altar. So I would just ask all of you who knew and met Daddy to keep those good experiences in their hearts.”

Among the several celebrants at the Mass were Johnny’s uncle, Fr Harry Ryan, while chief celebrant was parish priest of Clara, Fr Larry O’Keeffe.

“At a time like this we feel lost and helpless,” was how Fr O’Keeffe summed up the day.

“But we are not alone, God is with us, and in the last few days we’ve seen a tremendous amount of goodwill to the Ryan family. All the people not knowing what to say, grown men with tears in their eyes, not too sure what to say, all wanting to help and to be of support.”