The 61-year-old father of last year’s All-Ireland winning hurling captain was killed last Wednesday when he was trapped by machinery after a tractor he had been working on rolled backwards.
Among those attending the funeral Mass in his native Clara, not far from the fringes of Kilkenny city, were former IFA president John Bryan and other prominent members of the local farming community.
He was the first person to be killed in a farm accident this year, following a worrying spike in the number of farming-related fatalities in 2014.
Hundreds turned out at St Colman’s Church in Clara to say farewell to the popular farmer and former hurler and to offer their sympathy and support to his widow Lilly and sons Lester, Tom, and Liam.
A guard of honour was provided by members of the Kilkenny hurling panel, led by manager Brian Cody, their black and amber jerseys draped over their shoulders as silence fell while the hearse carrying Johnny Ryan’s coffin arrived from the family farmhouse to the church.
There were also guards of honour from the Clara juvenile GAA teams, as well as the 1986 Clara hurling team which, backboned by Johnny at centre-back, won the club’s first Kilkenny senior title.
The club’s second, in 2013, featured his three sons and led to Lester being nominated as Kilkenny captain in 2014.
“We’ve received huge support these last few tough days,” an emotional Lester Ryan said towards the end of the funeral Mass.
“The visits of people near and far has genuinely eased the suffering of our family. I particularly want to thank Clara GAA Club and the people of Clara, and the wider GAA community, some of whom went to great lengths to pay their respects in one way or another.
“Daddy, at this time, would not wish to me to plamáss him from the altar. So I would just ask all of you who knew and met Daddy to keep those good experiences in their hearts.”
Parish priest Fr Larry O’Keeffespoke of “grown men with tears in their eyes, not too sure what to say”, was a common sight in the area during the days since the tragedy.
Afterwards, Johnny Ryan’s coffin was carried by his sons, among others, for his last journey, the short distance from the church to the adjacent cemetery.