Hundreds bid farewell to hurling legend
The boy wonder, the special one, a giant of the game: some of the tags applied to Jimmy Doyle yesterday as hundreds gathered to say farewell to one of the greatest artists hurling has ever known.
The six-time All-Ireland winner grew up within sight of Semple Stadium in Thurles, and died suddenly on Monday in his Church View house just a sliotar's puck from that cathedral of hurling, and even closer to the Church of St Joseph and St Brigid where his funeral Mass was celebrated.
To mark the passing of an era, other true greats of the sport from within Tipperary and without gathered to offer their support to Jimmy's family and to say a last goodbye to the 76-year-old Thurles native who made the GAA's Team of the Century in 1984 and Team of the Millennium in 2000, among many other awards.
As his friend, journalist and author Michael Dundon, put it in an eulogy at the end of the Mass: "Jimmy Doyle, the boy wonder of hurling, will live on as long as there are hurling men to talk of his deeds and recall his genius."
There were great players around him on a Tipperary team that all but dominated the late 1950s and 1960s but, according to Mr Dundon, "Jimmy was the special one, the one who made ordinary teams good and lifted the good ones into the realms of greatness".
His coffin was draped with the colours of Munster, Tipperary and his beloved Thurles Sarsfields club, with whom he won 11 county senior championships. It was also decorated with a black and white action shot of the great man in his prime, about to strike the sliotar with that pure swing which was perfected over hundreds of evenings on the field so close to his home.
His daughter Janet described her dad as a humble, kind and unassuming man, while son Walter said neither Jimmy or his family could ever understand the "adulation" bestowed on him.
His other children, Gerry and James, were unavoidably absent. He is also survived by siblings Paddy, Hannah and Breda.
Mourners from the world of GAA world included Mickey "The Rattler" Byrne, Michael "Babs" Keating, Len Gaynor, Theo English, Tony Wall, Seán McLoughlin, Ken Hogan, Nicky English and Eoin Kelly, as well as once-rivals and contemporaries from other counties such as Eddie Keher, Jim Treacy, Fan Larkin (all Kilkenny) Tony Maher (Cork), and Noel Dalton (Waterford). GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail, Seán Fogarty and Jimmy O'Gorman of the Munster Council, Tipperary county board officials, Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte, Kilkenny county board chairman Ned Quinn, and broadcasters Seán Bán Breathnach and Brian Carthy also attended the funeral.
President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny were both represented.
Among the many rounds of applause and ripples of laughter drawn during a ceremony of celebration - as well as sadness - was for a line chief celebrant Fr Tom Fogarty was told by someone the previous day.
"What had Jimmy Doyle and Christy Ring and Jesus Christ got in common? I'd like to think they had many things in common, but all three drew a huge crowd whenever they appeared," he said.
Jimmy was the special one, the one who made ordinary teams good and lifted the good ones into the realms of greatness".