Newbridge-born tighthead prop no ordinary fan of the oval ball
CELEBRITY FAN:Christy Moore, Rugby, Singer, 65
When did you first become interested in rugby?
Growing up in Newbridge, Co Kildare, the primary game in our house was GAA, but rugby always came to the fore when the Interpros and Triple Crown were being played.
Can you remember going to your first international at Lansdowne Road?
I do have a recollection of being at an international in Lansdowne Road with my father. He passed away in 1956 so it was probably the 1955-56 season when I was 10 or 11. It was against Wales for I remember a Welsh prop called Prosser. Gordon Wood, Ronnie Kavanagh, David Hewitt, Andy Mulligan, Wigs Mulcahy, Cecil Pedlow, Niall Brophy, Noel Murphy – they’re all legends of my youth.
What’s the difference about going to an international then compared to today?
Going to Lansdowne Road in the 50s and 60s was a thing of wonder – the drive or the train to Dublin; the banter, the sense of it being a huge event. I realise that passing years can make the past seem better then perhaps it may have been. In 2010 I still love the game and admire the players but the brouhaha and tacky commercialisation surrounding it is irritating and galling. I believe it is possible to be professional without being tasteless and crass, but then I’m just a grumpy old prop!
What memories stand out from watching internationals?
I will never forget seeing Mike Gibson cutting through, Mick English dropping goals, Gordon Hamilton’s try against Australia in the World Cup, Fergus Slattery covering forever, Moss being Moss. I still wince when I remember Jerry Walsh’s crash tackles, smile when I remember Ginger McLoughlin’s try against England, the speed of Alan Duggan. I have always had a soft spot for the props – Ray McLoughlin, Syd Miller, Al Moroney and, of course, John Hayes and Marcus . . . Reggie and The Claw, Nick Popplewell, Seán Lynch.
When did you start to play rugby yourself?
In 1959 I made my debut in the second row for Newbridge College under-14s. The following year our Junior Cup team drew three times with Castleknock in the Leinster Junior Cup. I was in the second row with Barry Nolan from Bournemouth. I scored a try and was never as high since.
What clubs did you play for?
I started off with Bective Rangers 3rd Bs where I developed a fondness for loose porter in Kiely’s of Donnybrook. Had a few run-outs with Railway Union and then a great season with Cashel when we won the Munster Junior Cup and The Mansergh Cup. John Moroney, Frank Hogan and Ned Tierney were the stars of that team along with Barney Joe Burke, Jack Ryan and, our lightning hooker, Noel Dowling. I then joined Corinthians in Galway and we got to the Connacht Senior Cup final to be beaten 6-3 by a UCG team led by Mick Molloy who was just starting his long run in the Irish second row.
What position did you play?
I played tighthead prop and polished my survival skills playing for Cashel against Limerick junior clubs like Richmond, Thomond and Young Munster. There was no crouch, hold, pause (zzzzzz) and engage back then.
When did you retire?
I played until 1966 when my promising career as a tighthead prop was cut short by a bank strike and by my being a short arse. I had to settle for being a ballad singer.
How many times have you sung for the Irish rugby team?
Six times so far. Eddie dropped me for a while, with disastrous consequences.
Can you remember what players sung with you?
As far as I can remember Trevor Brennan sang Ordinary Man; Reggie Corrigan, Nancy Spain; Keith Wood, Fields of Athenry; Rog, Ride On; Denis Leamy, The Contender;Donncha O’Callaghan, Joxerand Black is the Colour; Brian O’Driscoll, City Of Chicago; Luke Fitzgerald, Reel in the Flickering Light; Davy Tweed, Four Green Fields. I am doubtless leaving out a few from over the years but these were the more memorable performances. Apologies to anyone not mentioned but we all get dropped eventually!
Who’s the best singer from the Irish rugby squad of the last 10 years?
If I had to be on a desert island listening to one of them I’d opt for Denis Leamy.
What was the most memorable rugby match you’ve attended?
A Leinster Schools Senior Cup final in Lansdowne Road in 1959 between Newbridge and Castleknock, which we lost narrowly. I can still remember the songs we sang.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve seen at a rugby ground?
Two Limerick puck goats in Young Munster jerseys being refused admission to Lansdowne Road for an AIL final. Good sense prevailed and the alickadoos relented, but not before civil war was threatened.
What’s the best heckle you heard at a match?
At a Munster Senior Cup final in the late-1970s a young scrumhalf inadvertently passed the ball to a steaming prop. A voice shouted: “Jaysus boy, don’t be givin’ him the ball at all – he don’t want it.”
- In conversation with Richard Fitzpatrick