ON the last day of a memorable year for hurling, the sport bade a fond farewell to one of its greatest players.
John Doyle enjoyed Tipperary's pulsating win over Kilkenny in last September's All Ireland final as much as anyone. Unfortunately for 'The Legend', it was to be his last.
Yesterday, former team-mates, opponents, and GAA officials mingled with politicians, businessmen and clergy at the funeral of the 80-year-old.
We were reminded of a few previous successes.
His record-equalling eight All-Ireland senior medals, the jerseys of Tipperary and Holycross-Ballycahill and a photograph of the man himself with rivals and friends Christy Ring of Cork and Jimmy Smyth of Clare were among the items brought to the altar at the beginning of the funeral Mass in Holycross Abbey.
The talk among family and friends was of Tipperary's glory days in the 1950s and 60s, and John Doyle's role in achieving them while ensuring sporting immortality for himself.
In a graveside oration, his lifelong friend and long-serving GAA administrator Tommy Barrett described Mr Doyle as "immovable, like Slievenamon".
From the time he first represented his Holycross-Ballycahill club, Mr Doyle was fired with "a burning ambition to represent Tipperary", his friend said, and his dedication -- along with his fierce will to win and renowned skill -- allowed him do that in three separate decades.
Reminders of that era were dotted throughout the famous church and graveyard for the funeral, including old team-mates like Mick Maher, Jimmy Finn, Jimmy Doyle, Mick Roche, Liam King, Mickey 'The Rattler' Byrne, John Kelly, John O'Donoghue, Len Gaynor and Donie Nealon.
Also there was Kilkenny star of the era, Eddie Keher, who became close to Mr Doyle in latter years, as well as broadcasters Micheal O Muircheartaigh and Brian Carthy, GAA president Christy Cooney, ex-presidents Nickey Brennan, Sean Kelly, Sean McCague and Joe McDonagh, presidential candidate Con Hogan, former Tipperary PRO and camogie president Liz Howard, former Munster Council chairman Sean Fogarty, close friend Gerry Chawke, Seanad cathaoirleach Pat Moylan, and President McAleese's aide-de-camp Cmdt Mick Walsh. Taoiseach Brian Cowen attended Thursday night's removal ceremony.
A great family man, as his wife Ann and children Michael, Johnny, Margaret, Colette, Liz, Sandra and Anne Marie could testify, his other family was his GAA family, chief celebrant Fr Ray Reidy said.
"There were bonds formed and friends made that last for life," Fr Reidy said.