Monday 20 November 2017

A fitting farewell for the talented Mr Diffley

Tony Ward

Tony Ward

On Thursday in a beautiful service at the Church of the Assumption, Booterstown Avenue we bade Sean Diffley farewell. One of the great rugby journalists and one of nature's true gentleman is with us no more.

Hard to believe, but just days after celebrating his 85th birthday, 'Diffo', as he was affectionately known, had passed on to that great rugby and sporting tavern in the sky.

At times like this it is natural to want to say the nicest things no matter how great the rogue in question. Well, Diffo was no rogue. He was, as one of his darling daughters, Anne-Marie, described him "a real pushover."

That was Diffo the Dad, but Diffo the Journalist could be stringent and forthright in his views. For all that, he seldom fell out with anyone and when he did for any length of time, you knew with whom the fault lay.

Only once ever did he and I have a difference of opinion and it came in the build-up to the inaugural World Cup, when I felt he wasn't giving me the support I felt I was due when the usual 'big-five' selection shenanigans were at work. He rang me in the staff room of the school in which I was teaching at the time and I was cool, boy was I cool, finishing up telling him 'I was touched by his concern'.

It was out of character and he knew it. Thankfully, Diffo was Diffo and the following day, knowing I was angry, he rang me back and we met up for a cuppa that very afternoon.

Our mini-spat was the forerunner to the wise counsel he provided many times over when this parish sought to enlist my services full-time upon his retirement. He was central to my making that move.

Diffo was a font of knowledge, but more than that, he was a font of knowledge with a great sense of humour. The stories are legendary and, while space limits me now, I was reminded by one of his Lansdowne club colleagues of an interview he arranged with another great Lansdowne man, one Maurice Ignatius Keane, for this newspaper back in the mid-70s.

The formal interview was set for the 106 (then Murphy's) hostelry in Rathgar. Formalities out of the way, a great afternoon and evening was had by interviewer and interviewee, culminating in the former contacting the latter the following day inquiring as to "what it was we were talking about yesterday."

A true story surrounding two of the game's gentlest giants.

Rest assured that already they are sharing a few bevvies in that rugby tavern in the sky.

To Anne-Marie, Jean and Cathy, and to Sean's extended family, we offer our sincerest condolences. Diffo was, is and always will be one of the best.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.

Irish Independent

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