Mourners line out to hail 'gentle giant' of Irish sport
Rugby hero loses brave fight against cancer
TRIBUTES flooded in last night to rugby legend Moss Keane (62), who was hailed as "a gentle giant" of Irish sport.
Moss was diagnosed with cancer in early 2009 and lost his courageous battle against the disease yesterday.
He died at his home outside Portarlington, Co Laois, surrounded by his family including his wife Anne and daughters Sarah and Anne-Marie.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the entire nation mourned the former Munster and Ireland rugby star.
"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 and Irish Lions with great distinction. He was also an accomplished Gaelic footballer in his younger days," Mr Cowen said.
"Moss will, of course, always be associated with the heroic Munster side of 1978 that defeated the All Blacks at Thomond Park. His loss will be felt most deeply by those who knew him best. I want to extend my deepest sympathies to Moss's family."
Sports Minister Mary Hanafin said: "Moss will be remembered as one of Kerry and Ireland's greatest-ever sporting heroes. He was one of Ireland's best-loved figures, both on and off the pitch, a gentle giant of Irish rugby."
Fellow Kerryman and Ireland rugby star Mick Galwey said few sportsmen could ever match Moss's stature both on and off the pitch.
"He was a true colossus of a man -- he will go down as one of the all-time greats," he said.
"He was very brave about the whole thing. He had cancer and he wasn't afraid to talk about it. He fought it every step of the way."
GOAL chief executive John O'Shea, a long-time friend, said Moss was one of the most generous sportsmen ever to pull on an Irish jersey.
"Moss Keane was a GOAL patron for more than 30 years. He travelled overseas with GOAL and visited our street children's programme in Kolkata (Calcutta), where he was visibly moved by what he saw. He was a magnificent humanitarian. GOAL has lost a great champion, and the poor have lost a wonderful friend," Mr O'Shea said.
IRFU president Caleb Powell said the rugby world was all the poorer for Moss's passing.
"Quite simply, Irish rugby has lost one of its most genuine characters and legends of the game. His reputation will live long in the memories of not only Irish rugby, but world rugby," he declared.
Mr Powell said Moss would be best remembered for the generosity of spirit with which he played the game.
Moss's close friend and fellow Kerry sports star, TD Jimmy Deenihan (FG), said it was a heartbreaking loss not just for the rugby star's many friends but for the Irish nation as a whole.
"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," he said.
Mayo TD John O'Mahony (FG) said Moss was the life and soul of every room he walked into.
"Moss is rightfully regarded as a true sporting great, whose broad shoulders carried the weight for Lansdowne, Munster, Ireland and the Lions," Mr O'Mahony said.
Moss Keane's remains will repose at Maher's Chapel of Rest, Portarlington from 4.30pm today, with removal following at 6.45pm to St Michael's Church, Portarlington.
He will be buried after 1pm Requiem Mass tomorrow at St Michael's Cemetery.