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For anyone connected with the game on the island, Jack Kyle's name stands apart

In Pictures: Irish rugby legend Jack Kyle Close

Forties heyday: Jack Kyle

Forties heyday: Jack Kyle

Jack Kyle

Jack Kyle

Irish rugby legend Jack Kyle

Irish rugby legend Jack Kyle

RBS Six Nations 21/3/2009
Ireland
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with Jack Kyle after the game
Mandatory Credit ?INPHO/Morgan Treacy *** Local Caption ***

RBS Six Nations 21/3/2009 Ireland Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with Jack Kyle after the game Mandatory Credit ?INPHO/Morgan Treacy *** Local Caption ***

?INPHO/Morgan Treacy

A fun moment in January 2006 at Parliament Buildings, when Rugby Legends Jack Kyle and Willie John McBride ,joined Allen Gibson, then the Chairman of the UK and Ulster Rugby Charity "Wooden Spoon". The occasion was Jack's 80th Birthday lunch in the members dining room, Stormont with Irish rugby VIP's. Picture Stanley Matchett.

A fun moment in January 2006 at Parliament Buildings, when Rugby Legends Jack Kyle and Willie John McBride ,joined Allen Gibson, then the Chairman of the UK and Ulster Rugby Charity "Wooden Spoon". The occasion was Jack's 80th Birthday lunch in the members dining room, Stormont with Irish rugby VIP's. Picture Stanley Matchett.

Pacemaker Press International Belfast 13/8/2008. The surviving members of the 1948 grand slam winning Ireland side after a question and answer session at the Europa hotel this afternoon. Included are, Jim McCarthy, Jack Kyle, Jimmy Nelson, Karl Mullen, Paddy Reid, Bertie OHanlon and Michael OFlanagan . Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

Pacemaker Press International Belfast 13/8/2008. The surviving members of the 1948 grand slam winning Ireland side after a question and answer session at the Europa hotel this afternoon. Included are, Jim McCarthy, Jack Kyle, Jimmy Nelson, Karl Mullen, Paddy Reid, Bertie OHanlon and Michael OFlanagan . Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

Guinness PRO12, Thomond Park, Co. Limerick 28/11/2014
Munster vs Ulster
Ulster players show their respects to Jack Kyle who passed away today 
Mandatory Credit ?INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Guinness PRO12, Thomond Park, Co. Limerick 28/11/2014 Munster vs Ulster Ulster players show their respects to Jack Kyle who passed away today Mandatory Credit ?INPHO/Ryan Byrne

?INPHO/Ryan Byrne

RBS Six Nations, Millenium Stadium, Cardiff 21/3/2009
Wales vs Ireland
Jack Kyle
Mandatory Credit INPHO/Dan Sheridan *** Local Caption ***

RBS Six Nations, Millenium Stadium, Cardiff 21/3/2009 Wales vs Ireland Jack Kyle Mandatory Credit INPHO/Dan Sheridan *** Local Caption ***

Legendary half fly Jack Kyle, 83, at his Co Down, Northern Ireland home. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 19, 2009. Among the thousands of rugby fans descending on Cardiff this weekend is one who has waited longer than most for Ireland to clinch a second grand slam. Jack Kyle, who led the men in green to their only clean sweep in 1948, will be in the Millennium Stadium on Saturday hoping the current generation can finally emulate that achievement. See PA story SPORT Rugby Ireland. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Legendary half fly Jack Kyle, 83, at his Co Down, Northern Ireland home. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 19, 2009. Among the thousands of rugby fans descending on Cardiff this weekend is one who has waited longer than most for Ireland to clinch a second grand slam. Jack Kyle, who led the men in green to their only clean sweep in 1948, will be in the Millennium Stadium on Saturday hoping the current generation can finally emulate that achievement. See PA story SPORT Rugby Ireland. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Rugby legends Jack Kyle and Willie John McBride holding up their Ulster Rugby Jerseys ahead of the Ulster match against the Dragons at Ravenhill.

Rugby legends Jack Kyle and Willie John McBride holding up their Ulster Rugby Jerseys ahead of the Ulster match against the Dragons at Ravenhill.

Jack Kyle

Jack Kyle

Local hero: Jack Kyle gets a standing ovation during a visit to Ravenhill last February. He was always a popular visitor to the stadium he once graced as a player

Local hero: Jack Kyle gets a standing ovation during a visit to Ravenhill last February. He was always a popular visitor to the stadium he once graced as a player

?INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ralph Spearman (left) with Irish rugby  legend Jack Kyle

Ralph Spearman (left) with Irish rugby legend Jack Kyle

Legendary half fly Jack Kyle, at his Co Down, Northern Ireland home

Legendary half fly Jack Kyle, at his Co Down, Northern Ireland home

Watch him go: the late, great Jack Kyle sets off on one of his trademark mazy runs

Watch him go: the late, great Jack Kyle sets off on one of his trademark mazy runs

Special guest: Jack Kyle, seen here with Mike Gibson, was a great supporter of the Belfast Telegraph Sports awards

Special guest: Jack Kyle, seen here with Mike Gibson, was a great supporter of the Belfast Telegraph Sports awards

The Ulster team observe a minutes silence in memory of Jack Kyle and David McCormick. Guinness PRO12, Thomond Park, Co. Limerick. INPHO/James Crombie.

The Ulster team observe a minutes silence in memory of Jack Kyle and David McCormick. Guinness PRO12, Thomond Park, Co. Limerick. INPHO/James Crombie.

?INPHO/James Crombie

Jack Kyle in his heyday

Jack Kyle in his heyday

Jack Kyle

Jack Kyle

Jack Kyle at his home

Jack Kyle at his home

Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with Jack Kyle after a game

Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with Jack Kyle after a game

?INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Green giant: Jack Kyle’s love affair with rugby never ended

Green giant: Jack Kyle’s love affair with rugby never ended

Silent tribute: Ulster players line up to remember Jack Kyle before last night’s match at Thomond Park

Silent tribute: Ulster players line up to remember Jack Kyle before last night’s match at Thomond Park

?INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Ulster rugby stalwart Bryn Cunningham took the Special Award, handed over by legend Jack Kyle.

Ulster rugby stalwart Bryn Cunningham took the Special Award, handed over by legend Jack Kyle.

Ireland legends Jack Kyle (left) and Jimmy Nelson read the match programme from the famous 6-3 victory over Wales in 1948 at Ravenhill which clinched the Grand Slam

Ireland legends Jack Kyle (left) and Jimmy Nelson read the match programme from the famous 6-3 victory over Wales in 1948 at Ravenhill which clinched the Grand Slam

Alan Moneypenny, Jack Kyle and Rory Best. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.

Alan Moneypenny, Jack Kyle and Rory Best. 2011 Linwoods and Sport Northern Ireland Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards at the Ramada Hotel, Belfast.

Forties heyday: Jack Kyle

His first cap came in January 1947 on a team that included Karl Mullen, JC Daly, Barney Mullan and Bill McKay, to name but a few at the start of a golden generation and golden period for Irish rugby.

I never got to see John Wilson Kyle play but for anyone remotely connected with rugby on this island, the name Jackie Kyle stands apart.

He won 46 caps for his country, a record for any out-half that stood for another 34 years until overtaken by Rob Andrew in 1992. He united rival communities as seamlessly and as effectively as he ripped opposition defences apart. Jack Kyle was special….very, very special.

Although preceded by Eugene Davy, I think it is generally recognised that Kyle lit the out-half flame that has burned for so many Irish out-halves and continues through Johnny Sexton to this day.

Many have come and gone, the list too long to name, but one player, one No 10 stands apart. Kyle is to Irish rugby what Pele was and continues still to be to football in Brazil.

While Jack the player I did not know - our first caps were 31 years apart - Jack the gentleman I most certainly did and in latter years particularly well at that. Forgive a little self indulgence here but mention of that first cap takes me back to the Shelbourne Hotel and an interview in the Sunday Independent with Seamus Martin the day after the game where Kyle declared "Ward very impressive".

He elaborated "naturally enough I paid a lot of attention to Tony Ward who was playing in my own position at out-half. It was great to see him go so well in his first game for Ireland. He looked an intelligent player and hardly put a foot wrong".

I was chuffed. Not only did Jack Kyle know my name but here was the consummate genius and ultimate rugby legend singing my praises on the airwaves and in the national newspapers.

I'm not too sure the introduction to rugby at the highest level got any better than that. But it did and from time to time he would sit me down and talk me through his perspective on my game.

In time, initially through Tony O'Reilly and subsequently through getting to know the man behind the legend much more intimately, I became really comfortable in his company.

His son Caleb was a rock in that and in every other respect. So much so that in 2006, in a book I did with John Scally entitled Life at Number Ten, there could be but one 'Perfect Ten' in the 20+ out halves included and but one 'Perfect Ten' to launch it. Thanks to Caleb, his dad did the business and the most reluctant out half star of all took centre stage that night.

Mention Jack and the words gentle, special, humble, caring come immediately to mind. He was all of that and so much more besides.

I too like my heroes to be fundamentally nice people and boy was JW Kyle that. He loved reciting poetry and did so with passion.

But he was a rugby star amongst stars. Inspiration behind the Grand Slam success in 1948 as well as Five Nations Champions in '48, '49 and '51 in what is known universally throughout the rugby world as 'the Kyle era'.

By everybody that is bar the man himself.

For over half a century he remained Ireland's most capped out half until fellow Ulsterman David Humphreys surpassed him.

While he had great respect for the modern day professional and all the game now entails he still held certain values I happen to share.

"In our day, we were trying to avoid the opposition; nowadays, they're deliberately running into people.

"It's a much tougher game. You need to be able to take the knocks." How right he was and how sadly accurate.

He toured with the Lions to New Zealand and Australia in 1950. It was the last of the old style tours and took six and a half months to complete. He was one of nine Irish players to make that tour.

One of his greatest rivals and one of Welsh rugby's greatest ever out-halves was former BBC commentator Cliff Morgan who described the Ireland Number Ten as "the very best, the loveliest of players and loveliest of men".

For anyone who knew the genius and gentleman that was Cliff there could be no finer tribute.

We'll leave that as his finest and most fitting legacy although any tribute to Jack would not be complete without the most oft quoted lines (borrowed from the Scarlet Pimpernel) to him, but never by him.

'They seek him here, they seek him there,

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere,

That paragon of pace and guile,

The damned elusive Jackie Kyle.'

 

Belfast Telegraph