IT'S 7pm on a Sunday evening and as I sit at home watching TV my phone rings. I look down and private number is on the screen, something a lot of people are reluctant to answer.
But on this occasion, I answer the call and simply say 'Hello John'.
During his time as president of the Munster branch of Hockey Ireland, and indeed for many other years, this was a regular call from John Rose.
It was a check-in after games that had taken place at the weekend to ask me what ones I was at, what I thought of certain results and looking forward to upcoming games.
Depending on what games I was at, he would ask about certain players on how they did and was very quick to point out younger players and was fairly accurate on his predictions of who would make it as long-serving senior club players or even as Irish internationals.
Those conversations also took place at Garryduff where he had his stool in a certain corner of the bar and as soon as I would walk in he'd spot me and the first question was always – 'do you want a coffee?'.
What followed could be 15-20 minutes of slagging and laughter and discussion, not just about hockey but other sports as well.
He was a big Utd fan and as a supporter of one of their arch-rivals, he had the upper hand on me for many years. He was also a keen follower of Cork GAA sides and even though hockey was his first love he was well versed in what they were up to, as he was on rugby – a sport he played for some time with Dolphin RFC in the late 60s to early 70s.
But hockey was the sport he was passionate about and over his many years involved with the game he was president of the Munster branch of Hockey Ireland as well as being an umpire of the highest standard.
He started playing hockey with Ashton, but the love of a good woman saw him follow her to Garryduff where he started playing with Church of Ireland.
Rosemary Dalton, became Rosemary Rose in 1972 and as a couple they were inseparable. She always got a kick out of people's reaction when she would meet them for the first time and say her name is Rose Rose.
Their involvement with CoI was marked in recent years when they were honoured with life membership of the club, an honour not too many can say they have.
During his time there as a player, one of his proudest moments was captaining their 'thirds' to Barber Cup glory, in a season where they remained undefeated winning 12 games and drawing one.
Along with John, there were several more 'experienced' players in the side, who were backed up by some younger ones who used to do the running for them.
Rose was also heavily involved with the club and was a superb administrator and coach, but was never one to look for the limelight and there are thousands of players, many still playing, that she would have coached over the years.
She spotted a gap in coaching a long time ago when players were being looked after up to age 12, but then nothing until they were older unless they went to a hockey-playing school.
She set up club coaching for players from 12 to 16, which ultimately led to the formation of leagues and there are many players who would have been lost to the game otherwise.
There, always helping and encouraging in any way he could, was John. But he was also more than willing to help out in other ways and one of them was as an umpire.
He thought nothing of jumping in his car and heading to Thurles or Limerick and anywhere in Cork to umpire a school match during the week or a club game at weekends.
He never cared what the level was, but always adapted his style of umpiring to ensure he was fair in his dealings with those involved. With schools or teams down clubs levels, he would always explain a decision to encourage them to learn from it as they moved up the rankings in their hockey careers.
As well as umpiring he also got involved with the Munster branch and served as men's president from 2004 to 2006. During this time a steering committee was set up to amalgamate the men's and women's branches into one Munster organisation and he played a key part in this happening.
He went on to become the first president of the amalgamated committee, serving as president from 2006 to 2009.
During that time he always acted in the best interests of the branch and was never afraid to raise issues at national level if he felt necessary. Whilst all may not have agreed with some branch decisions, and there would have been times that John may not have, once it was made he ensured all supported it.
He believed that all should have their say and once a decision was agreed upon that all should support it, no matter what side you were on ahead of the discussion. His commitment to the branch saw him honoured with life membership of the branch after his time as president.
Along with his involvement with the branch he also coached UCC men's side in the late 90s and was manager of the Munster U21 side for two seasons.
Former president of Hockey Ireland and chairperson of the Munster branch, Ivy Dennis, said that John was a huge loss to the game.
“He was always very supportive of hockey and anything that was asked of him he would do to the highest level. He always believed that the two branches should amalgamate and he chaired the committee that made this happen, which at the time was a huge step forward for the branch.
“He was a superb umpire as well and I recall him telling me how much he enjoyed doing schools' games and at every level he umpired he was always very fair.
“There was a huge respect for John amongst the schools as he had no favourites and they appreciated that and the fact he thought nothing of travelling all over Munster to umpire games. He had a great way with all players and whether they were young or slightly older they all had great time for John.
“The crowd that turned up outside Garryduff for a guard of honour as the funeral cortege passed by reflected his standing in the hockey community and further afield and it was a fitting tribute to him,” concluded Ivy.
Speaking on behalf of Church of Ireland, former club president Mervyn Kerr said: “John, who has been a member of CoI for more than 35 years and honorary life member together with his wife Rose. He will be greatly missed by all in Garryduff. A true gentleman and a great supporter of the club both on and off the field of play.
“Both John and Rose not only played for the club but also were heavily involved in promoting the youth side of the club and in particular the junior girls section. John was always available to umpire home and away, coach and never slow to assist in any fundraising activities particularly in helping to run our junior discos.
“We shall greatly miss his warm welcome, banter and his endless jokes and great company while enjoying refreshments in our club bar. A legend in his own time.” John and Rose were a huge support to her sister, Hazel, and family when her husband Charlie passed away as they were very close and would often be seen in each other's company. No doubt Hazel is now doing the same for Rose.
Since March I had plenty of conversations with John where hockey would be the starting point but never the ending as it would drift to other sports and Covid.
He was fearful that he or Rose would catch it, but thankfully they didn't, and it was other health issues that sadly saw him pass away last month.
Visits to Garryduff won't be the same as his chair will be empty and that smile and banter that greeted you won't be there anymore. A gent and a great man is no longer with us, may he rest in peace.
- Rory Noonan