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Proud GAA community mourns beloved clubman

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Clara Parish Priest Fr Larry O'Keeffe pictured at the grounds of Clara GAA club yesterday. Picture: Dylan Vaughan

Clara Parish Priest Fr Larry O'Keeffe pictured at the grounds of Clara GAA club yesterday. Picture: Dylan Vaughan

Dylan Vaughan

Farmer Johnny Ryan with his wife Lilly and son Lester after Kilkenny won the league final in 2014

Farmer Johnny Ryan with his wife Lilly and son Lester after Kilkenny won the league final in 2014

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Clara Parish Priest Fr Larry O'Keeffe pictured at the grounds of Clara GAA club yesterday. Picture: Dylan Vaughan

No one would have been prouder than Johnny Ryan on that joyful day last year when the Liam McCarthy Cup was carried through the rural Kilkenny parish of Clara.

And yesterday that day was recalled as streams of neighbours and friends called to the Ryan farmhouse, where the 61-year-old's remains lay in the front room. His sons - Tom, Liam and Lester, the captain of Kilkenny's All-Ireland winning-team - and wife Lily were comforted by the many visitors, who could scarcely believe what had happened to Mr Ryan in the accident on his farm on Wednesday evening.

"Everyone has been on to us, from near and far," said Lester Ryan, as he praised the "brilliant" response from the GAA community who forget on-field rivalries and come together to support their own.

"It's hard to believe. He was big into the hurling, he was a massive clubman," the outgoing Kilkenny captain told the Irish Independent in the wake of the accident.

Johnny Ryan is understood to have become trapped when a tractor pinned him against a shed as he was filling a slurry tank on the farm at Dunbell, near the village of Clara.

His three sons told how one of the proudest days of their father's life was when the minor team won the club's first-ever county title at that grade in 2007, with Johnny a selector. Another great day came in 2013, when his three sons were on the Clara hurling team that won only the club's second-ever senior county championship.

Mr Ryan's remains will stay at home until tomorrow morning, when they will be taken the short distance to St Colman's Church for funeral Mass at 11am.

On another occasion, neighbour Matt O'Keeffe, said Mr Ryan would have been in the throes of organising the car parking, just like he did on the night Lester brought the Liam McCarthy Cup back to Clara.

Irish Independent