Big band leader James Last, who composed Jägerlatein, the music used as the theme for 'The Sunday Game', has died aged 86 at his home in Florida.

The piece of music, which means 'hunters' yarns' in German, has become synonymous with RTÉ's flagship Gaelic Games programme since its launch in 1979, and there was an outcry from the viewing public when it was temporarily replaced between 2004 and 2008.

German-born Last sold millions of records and was a regular fixture on television on this side of the Atlantic for many years.

In a statement, his manager said: "Mr Last passed away yesterday in Florida, peacefully and in the presence of his family."

Last started his career in the ruins of post-war Germany and went on to sell more than 80 million records.

His manager said he had died after a "short, severe illness".

She said: "In him, the world loses a unique ambassador whose expressive and all-encompassing language was music.

"We bid farewell to the man, friend and visionary, who by his impressive strength and openness, his professionalism, modesty and love of life served as a role model and as an inspiration for many generations worldwide."

Last, who had his first musical training as a military cadet during the Second World War, was famous for his big band arrangements of popular chart hits and also wrote film and television theme tunes.

He played a string of gigs at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year as part of what was billed as his farewell tour.