SPORTS legend and former Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Dermot Earley "epitomises the finest qualities of what Irishness is all about", Taoiseach Enda Kenny said last night.
Mr Kenny gave a warm and personal tribute to Mr Earley's legacy on the sports field, in the Defence Forces and in the personal friendships he made in his distinguished life.
'Dermot Earley: An Officer and a Gentleman' by John Scally is the biography of the legendary Roscommon footballer, whose senior inter-county career lasted 20 years between 1965 and 1985 and saw him win two GAA All-Stars.
He is considered one of the greatest players never to win an All-Ireland medal. In retirement he served as manager of both the Roscommon and Kildare senior inter-county teams.
Recalling the friendship between his own father, Henry Kenny of Castlebar, and Dermot Earley's father Peadar, when they played football together in Ballinlough, the Taoiseach said they were "salt of the earth".
"Dermot Earley in his professional career as Chief of Staff of Oglaigh na hEireann - our Defence Forces - was an iconic figure," the Taoiseach said.
He added that he "epitomised in his professional career and sporting career as well as his family life the finest qualities of what Irishness is all about".
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told the Irish Independent that he got to know Dermot Earley very well as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
"Growing up he was an iconic figure in Gaelic football terms. And an outstanding gentleman on the field of play."
He also recalled how they had both worked together following the kidnapping of Goal aid workers Sharon Commins and Hilda Kawuki in Darfur.
"It was a very tough and challenging time. He was a great source of strength and advice and a calming influence."