Moss Keane: Crowds honour legendary 'character and friend to all'
The term legend can be over used. But last night a true legend on the sports fields drew the crowds to Portarlington, Co Laois.
They came to pay tribute and to honour the great Moss Keane who died on Tuesday, finally succumbing to his battle with cancer.
He may have been an adopted son of Portarlington but the numbers of locals who attended his removal was testimony to how he had integrated and become a vital part of the local community.
Since moving to Portarlington with his wife Anne, a local woman, he immersed himself in local groups and clubs. An active member of Portarlington rugby and golf clubs, Moss was also an invaluable member of the Lions Club which he served as secretary and president.
Members of the three clubs formed a guard of honour as the cortege made its way to St Michael's Church.
His exploits on the rugby field are well chronicled, but less noted was his work for charity. He never trumpeted this side of his life but many in Portarlington will testify to his tireless work for those less well-off than himself.
Acknowledging Moss's work on behalf of the Lions Club, Willie Murphy said: "He was a highly respected member who did Trojan work for the club. He was a great friend to us all and a great character and will be sadly missed."
This was the man Portarlington people came to honour, more so than the rugby legend. He may never have lost his Kerry lilt, but to the people of Portarlington he was one of their own.
And there, mingling among the locals were men who, like Moss, had worn the Irish jersey with distinction, including Ginger McLoughlin, Willie Duggan, Ned Byrne, Ton Ensor and Keith Wood.
Meanwhile, a warm tribute was paid to Moss by the Kerry-born archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dermot Clifford.
Speaking in Rome last night, Archbishop Clifford recalled watching the Currow-born Keane single-handedly win a school tug of war.
"I said to myself that this strong fellow has a sporting future," Archbishop Clifford told the Irish Independent.
Archbishop Clifford, who was secretary to the then Bishop of Galway, Eamonn Casey, said that he also saw "Mossie" play Gaelic with UCC.
In 1974, when Mossie starred on the rugby field at Twickenham when Ireland beat England, Archbishop Clifford was there to cheer on his Kerry compatriot.
"I went on to the field and congratulated him," said the archbishop.
"We became good friends and I am very sad at hearing of his death, and sad for his wife Anne and daughters Sarah and Anne-Marie.