A great Kerryman and a great Irishman
IT IS not often that something happens that shakes your sense of all that's right and good in the world, as did the death last week of my old friend, Moss Keane.
Moss came from the lovely village of 500 people in mid-Kerry, called Currow, "on the road to nowhere", as Con Houlihan said.
From this remarkable dot on the map came three great rugby players and members of the British and Irish Lions, Mick Doyle, Moss Keane and Mick Galwey.
Keane and Galwey were Currow born and bred, while Mick Doyle came from nearby Castleisland to be reared in Currow by his grandmother.
There is even a spot at the Havelock Square End of Lansdowne Road called "Currow Corner", where Doyle, Keane and Galwey all scored tries for Ireland.
Moss was a giant of a man in every sense and he adhered to the advice given him by Mick O'Dwyer, who said: "Stick to the rugby. You'll be f*** all use at Gaelic football."
Moss was asked on one occasion what the standard of rugby around Castleisland was like. "I'd say it's like a pornographic movie. Only the participants enjoy it," he replied.
Moss's sense of humour was known to all, but he also possessed one of the keenest intellects I have ever encountered. Maybe the two go hand in hand.
He was a fine Gaelic footballer and, like most Kerry men who play rugby, I believe in his true heart and soul he remained more deeply attached to the game he knew from infancy as opposed to rugby.
When the editor of this newspaper, Aengus Fanning, asked Moss in an interview in 2005: "Would you prefer four All-Ireland medals or 25 caps for Ireland?" Moss replied typically: "You are an awful bastard. I will put it to you like this, Aengus, and being a Kerry man yourself, I played in two All-Ireland finals, junior, and I played in an All-Ireland under 21 semi-final and I played club -- we were beaten by a point in two All-Ireland finals, beaten by two points in an All-Ireland semi-final. At that time, I certainly would have given anything to win a junior All-Ire-
-land, club All-Ireland, any All-Ireland, tiddliwinks. But, as time went along then, I realised that I had gone as far as I was going to go in Gaelic football. I was a big awkward bastard and I focused in on rugby. I have seen the world, I have been to the Antipodes three or four times."
The great Kerry footballer and later selector, Joe Keohane, used to tell a story of heading up to Maghera, in Co Derry, for an All-Ireland junior semi-final in which Moss was playing full-back for Kerry.
On the way, Joe, who had aspirations to become a Clann na Poblachta TD, called in to John B Keane's pub in Listowel to ask for his advice as to whether he should run or not. John B's was, of course, a staunch Fine Gael house, but still Joe trusted the great man's opinion.
John B thought for a moment and then said: "Well, Joe, if you run, I think it is essential that you swing the Jewish vote in Knocknagoshel! That will be vital and you'll have to make the call yourself."
We were all very proud of Moss, who from the Kerry hinterland, conquered the world of international rugby and overcame the prejudices of some of the most pompous societies in the world.
On the Lions tour of New Zealand in 1977, he was asked what was his highlight of the tour to date by the Daily Telegraph correspondent. "To tell you the truth, it was when I rang my mother back in Kerry one Sunday night and she told me that Kerry had beaten Cork in the Munster final."
Moss had a lifetime in the Department of Agriculture, which he joined in 1972. He subsequently moved from Dublin to Portarlington. He told me: "I got out of Dublin, I found Dublin closing in a bit on me. I said I'd go for the rural."
I asked him was it the case he was too well known in Dublin? Moss answered: "I don't know. Someone said shares in Kerry Co-op dropped by about 20 per cent when they heard I was gone 40-50 miles closer to home."
Moss Keane had the great strength through his recent illness of his wife, Anne. When she was asked to describe Moss, Anne answered: "Shy in ways, he has a lot in him, deep inside himself. He has a great sense of humour, kind." I don't think anyone could put it better than Anne.
Moss, we are bereft. We have lost a great Kerryman and a great Irishman. Thanks for the memories. Your true intent was all for our delight.