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Saturday 21 October 2017

Farewell 'Diffo': a man of wit, honesty and sportsmanship

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

HE was a renowned sports writer whose career spanned half-a-century – and a gentleman who never grew old.

The mighty pen of former Irish Independent rugby correspondent Sean Diffley (85) was saluted at his funeral, as mourners paid tribute to the professionalism, wit and honesty which earned him the respect of players, coaches and readers alike.

Flourish

In an appropriate flourish that symbolised his lifelong passion for rugby, his coffin was carried from the church to a rendition of fans' favourite, 'The Fields of Athenry'.

A host of friends and former colleagues from the fields of sport and journalism attended the requiem Mass at the Church of the Assumption on Booterstown Avenue, south Dublin.

Chief mourners were his children Anne-Marie, Jean and Cathy and his granddaughter Liadh.

He was pre-deceased by his beloved wife Pam.

Amongst those who attended were former Irish rugby greats Willie Duggan, Mick Hipwell, Tom Grace, current honorary IRFU Treasurer, and Tony Ward of the Irish Independent.

Leinster rugby captain Leo Cullen was there from the current crop of players.

Irish Independent Editor Stephen Rae was present with Managing Editor Michael Denieffe, Executive Sports Editor David Courtney and Assistant Sports Editor John Moore.

Former Irish Independent Sports Editors Pat Courtney, PJ Cunningham and longstanding colleague George King also attended, together with former Sports Editor of the 'Evening Press', Tom O'Shea, and former Sports Editor of the 'Irish Press', Noel Meegan.

Former 'Irish Times' rugby correspondent Ned Van Esbeck, John Redmond of the 'Irish Press' and former RTE rugby commentator Fred Cogley were also there.

The Mass was celebrated by Monsignor Seamus Conway who told how he had always read Sean's articles in the Irish Independent and found them "interesting and thought-provoking".

But though he will be largely remembered as a talented sports journalist, his family will cherish their memories of Sean as a good father who with his wife Pam had raised their daughters in a happy home, he said.

Prayers of the faithful were said by Sean's daughter Cathy for the staff at Blackrock Clinic, where her father was treated, for the family and for Sean's colleagues "in the fourth estate" that they would continue to uphold the standards he held dear.

Prayers were also said for Irish sports men and women that they would continue to inspire the next generation of players, fans and sportswriters.

Sean's daughter Anne-Marie spoke of her father as "kind, gentle and completely non-judgmental".

In a tribute, Pat Courtney described how the writing, professionalism, wit and honesty of "Diffo" had earned him the respect of all.

At the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, he had worked "around the clock" providing news reports on the massacre of nine Israeli athletes, he recalled.

He had once asked his old friend who he considered to be the greatest rugby player of his time and Sean had replied 1948 Grand Slam legend Jack Kyle, citing his wit, honesty and sportsmanship. "He could have been talking about himself," Mr Courtney said.

After the funeral Mass, the remains were taken for burial at Shanganagh Cemetery.

Irish Independent

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