It was with great sadness and a huge sense of loss that we learned of Noel Ryan’s death on Tuesday morning. Portlaoise RFC without Noel’s presence is almost incomprehensible.

From soon after the club’s formation back in 1966 Noel, or ‘NJ’ as he was known to many, was a permanent part of the club’s being. He served the club as a player, committee member, President from 1983-’85 and was one of the club’s Trustees at the time of his death.

But it is for his work behind the scenes that he will be sorely missed. NJ was always there, ready at the shortest of notice to carry out one job or another.

Going back 30 or even 40 years one of my abiding memories is of committee meetings. Someone would bring some job or other that needed to be carried out – a leak in the showers, a bulb that needed changing, or sewers needed to be unblocked.

Noel would reach into the inside pocket of his jacket, out would come a white envelope, and notes taken. And you can be sure by the following week’s meeting each one of those jobs would be ticked off.

Noel was a bit of a perfectionist. If a job was worth doing, it was worth doing well. Nowhere is this better exemplified than when the main pitch was first laid in Togher. Noel organised members to come out and crawl across the pitch on our hands and knees, armed with screwdrivers to search out any stone close to the surface. God be with the days.

Then there was Noel the character. Whether it was in Togher, or in any other rugby club clubhouse, if there was a crowd in a corner you could be sure Noel was in the middle entertaining the gang with some yarn or other. It is hard to think we will not have the pleasure of his yarns in Togher any more.

On a personal note, when I joined the club back in 1972, it was Noel who took me under his arm. I travelled the length and breadth of Leinster in the red Rover, and I received one hell of an education. I am glad to say the last time I had a pint with him in Togher, towards the end of last season, we had a great chat about those early days.

To Noel’s wife Olive, his children Adrian, Jane, Sarah and Sheila, his grandchildren Isobel, Juliet, Liam, Ollie, Roan, Seamus and Susanna, sister Poppy, brothers-in-law Dick and Wally, sisters-in-law Daisy and Daphne, sons-in-law Marc and Robert, daughter-in-law Jean, extended family and friends, we offer our deepest condolences.