Maurice Ignatius “Moss” Keane, Gaelic footballer and a rugby union footballer who plays for Ireland and the British & Irish Lions, dies in Portarlington, County Laois, on October 5, 2010. The great Scottish rugby commentator Bill McClaren refers to Keane in his prime, “Maurice Ignatius Keane. Eighteen and a half stone of prime Irish beef on the hoof, I don’t know about the opposition but he frightens the living daylights out of me.”
Born at Currow, County Kerry on July 27, 1948, Keane starts out as a Gaelic footballer, playing at college level for University College Cork and in the process winning a number of medals including three Sigerson Cups, one Cork County Championship and a Munster Club Championship. He also plays in an All-Ireland Club Final. He represents Kerry Gaelic footballer’s at U-21 and Junior level as a full back, winning Munster Championships at both levels, playing in an All -Ireland at Junior level. In 2011 the Kerry County Board names the cup for the winners of the Intermediate Shield after him.
Keane then discovers rugby through a friend in college, playing for the UCC junior rugby team as ‘Moss Fenton,’ during the Gaelic Athletic Association‘s (GAA) ban on foreign games. When asked his first thoughts about rugby he answers, “It was like watching a pornographic movie – very frustrating for those watching and only enjoyable for those participating.” He makes his international debut for Ireland on January 19, 1974 against France in Paris, a game Ireland loses 9–6 in the 1974 Five Nations Championship.
Keane becomes the third Irish forward after Willie John McBride and Fergus Slattery to reach 50 international appearances. He scores his one and only test try in a 22–15 victory over Scotland in February 1980. He plays his 51st and final international against Scotland on March 3, 1984 in Dublin. Ireland loses the match 32–9. He is also a part of the famous Munster side that defeats the All Blacks in Thomond Park in 1978.
Keane tours New Zealand with Phil Bennett‘s British & Irish Lions in 1977, making one Test appearance, and is also a key man in Ireland’s 1982 Five Nations Championship win and their historic Triple Crown victory in 1982.
In 2005 Keane writes, with Billy Keane (no kin), his autobiography, called Rucks, Mauls and Gaelic Football.
Having gained a master’s degree in dairy science, Keane works for the Department of Agriculture during his rugby playing career and retires in July 2010. He keeps active playing golf on a weekly basis. In 1993 he is the victim of a vicious mugging.
In 2009 it is reported that Keane is being treated for colorectal cancer. He dies at the age of 62 on October 5, 2010. His funeral takes place on October 7 in St. Michael’s Church in Portarlington. Former Ireland international players, including Willie John McBride, Ollie Campbell, Tony Ward, Mick Galwey, Dick Spring, Donal Lenihan, Donal Spring and Ciaran Fitzgerald are in attendance. His coffin is adorned with the jerseys of Ireland, Munster, UCC, Kerry and Currow.
Many tributes are made including Taoiseach Brian Cowen saying, “one of the great gentleman of Irish sport would be sadly missed by his many fans and admirers worldwide. Moss Keane was one of the finest rugby players Ireland has ever produced. He was among rugby’s best known characters and a legend of the game at home and abroad.” Describing him as one of Irish rugby’s “most genuine characters and legends of the game,” the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) pays tribute to Keane, “Moss had ability on the field that no one could doubt from his record at club, provincial and international level.” IRFU President Caleb Powell says, “UCC, Lansdowne, Munster, Ireland and the British & Irish Lions all benefited from his presence and ensured that his reputation will live long in the memories of not only Irish rugby, but world rugby.”
Keane is survived by his wife Anne and his two daughters Sarah and Anne Marie.