The last surviving member of the three Tipperary teams who won three All-Ireland senior hurling titles in a row from 1949 to 1951 was laid to rest yesterday in his native Thurles when hundreds came together to say goodbye to Mickey “The Rattler” Byrne.
The Cathedral of the Assumption was the venue for his funeral Mass but it was in the great cathedral of hurling barely a kilometre away in Thurles, Semple Stadium, where The Rattler made his name during a hurling career that stretched from the 1940s until the mid-60s.
Five All-Ireland medals were won during that time with Tipperary, along with a remarkable 14 county titles with his beloved Thurles Sarsfields.
“As a hurler,” his son Paul told mourners at yesterday’s funeral, “he would have been described as a warrior. His heroes were Dan Breen and, especially, Michael Collins.”
The late corner-back, pre-deceased in 2005 by his wife Mary as well as two daughters who died in childhood, Marie and Bridget, was 93 when he passed away on Sunday and, as Paul pointed out, saw many old team-mates and opponents go before him in recent years.
“A lot of his great friends are all gone. Most of them are gone.”
Surviving family members include daughter Ena, sons Paul, Martin, Dixie, Chanel, Sean (Raz) and Noel, brother Dinny, sister Gertie, and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Among those who came to sympathise with them at the wake on Tuesday in the Thurles Sarsfields Social Club and at the family home, as well as at the funeral Mass, were GAA president Aoghan Ó Fearghail, former Tipperary hurlers Tony Wall, Michael Babs Keating, John O’Donoghue, Francis Loughnane, Theo English, Donie Nealon, Mick Roche, Tom Moloughney, Len Gaynor, Noel O’Dwyer, Sean McLoughlin, and Musha Maher.
Also present were Munster Council chairman Jerry O’Sullivan and his predecessor Robert Frost, along with current and former Tipperary GAA officials including Michael Burke, Seán Nugent, Tim Floyd and John Costigan; Kilkenny county board chairman Ned Quinn; Cork county board chairman Ger Lane; and former Dublin hurler and official Jimmy Grey.
The funeral cortege was led by old team-mates Mackey McKenna, Michael Murphy (captain in 1964) and Jimmy Finn (1951 captain).
Chief celebrant was local curate Fr Tomás O’Connell who said it was a day to mourn Mickey Byrne’s passing, but also to celebrate his long and full life.
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