Keane made his Ireland debut in 1974, just 4 years after taking up rugby in his early twenties following the lifting of the Gaelic Athletic Association ban on playing "foreign" sports. He decided he "did not need to be a rocket scientist to be a second row."
During an 11 year international career he was never dropped by his country, a remarkable stat. I caught the tail end of Keane's international career as my interest in the sport blossomed in the early eighties and remember him as a larger than life character and hugely committed forward. His playing prowess was matched by his camaraderie, fondness for a few pints and ready wit, with several examples emerging in the various obituaries being penned about him this week. Here are just a few:
- On the 1977 Lions Tour to New Zealand, when asked for his comments after a game, Keane replied "The first half was even. The second half was even worse."
- During the famous Munster victory over the All Blacks in 1978, following the lineout code being called at a Munster lineout, Keane was heard to exclaim "Oh Christ, not me again."
- Former England skipper Bill Beaumont approached Keane in the tunnel prior to an Ireland v England game and said "May the best team win," to which Keane replied “I hope they don’t.”
- In a teamtalk he was reported to have coined the phrase, "Spread out and stick together."
- And finally, former England hooker Peter Wheeler was invited to stay with Keane in Kerry and, on arrival at Keane's house late at night he asked if Moss Keane lived there, to which the woman who opened the door replied "Yes, bring him in."