Tributes pour in for 'backbone' of the GAA community'
The GAA community was in mourning last night following the death of Johnny Ryan.
Leading the tributes to Mr Ryan, Carmel Brennan, chairperson of his local club Clara, said he and his family were the "backbone of the club."
She said the entire parish was "stunned" at learning of Mr Ryan's tragic death in a farm accident.
Mr Ryan was a prominent GAA official, coach and steward following his own playing career, which saw him captain the Kilkenny over-40s hurling team to an All-Ireland title some years ago.
His three sons, Kilkenny captain Lester, Tom and Liam, all play senior hurling with Clara while his brothers, Lester Snr and Tom, have all played inter-county hurling for Kilkenny.
"Johnny and his brothers were always the first to volunteer, be it stewarding or parking cars or preparing for matches," said Ms Brennan.
"In fact we had a job to convince Johnny not to steward in a car park on the night of the homecoming when Lester was bringing back the Liam McCarthy cup to our club the Monday night after the All-Ireland."
She said Johnny's father Liam was a founding member of the club while Johnny himself started juvenile training for young players on Saturday mornings.
"We are stunned and saddened by his untimely death," she said. All club activities have been cancelled until further notice as a mark of respect to the family.
Chairman of the Kilkenny GAA County Board, Ned Quinn, described the death of Mr Ryan as "an awful tragedy".
"I want to express our sincere sympathies to his wife and to Lester and all the family... Johnny was an outstanding hurler himself. The whole family are steeped in the GAA," he said.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney sent his heartfelt condolences to the Ryan family last night. Mr Coveney said while he did not know Mr Ryan personally, he had been aware the Ryans were a well-known farm family in Kilkenny and the region.
"I was very taken aback by the news and many staff at the Department of Agriculture are also very upset. We all feel this enormous loss to the family and to his neighbours and friends, especially those associated with farming," Mr Coveney told the Irish Independent.
Irish Farmers Association president Eddie Downey expressed his condolences.