O'Reilly and Kiernan join Hall of Fame

 

Opting for two decided heavyweight names this year, the Rugby Writers of Ireland/Guinness yesterday inducted Tom Kiernan and Dr Tony O'Reilly into their Hall of Fame at the annual awards ceremony in the Berkeley Court Hotel.

Kiernan's CV pretty much runs the whole gamut from schools' player to leading rugby administrator, and with everything in between for good measure. Dr O'Reilly, meantime, stands as an achiever par excellence with the Lions, where like other Irish players his abilities were given full rein.

Kiernan's achievements have been well documented, suffice to say that after winning Junior and Senior Cup medals with PBC Cork before going on to join UCC and Cork Con, he played for Munster, Ireland (54 times, a record 24 as captain) and the Lions, with whom he toured South Africa in 1962 and '68, when he captained them in all four tests.

As a coach he has Munster's prized 1978 win over the All Blacks to crow about, not that he would, and the 1982 Triple Crown and the '83 Championship in his three-year stint as Irish coach.

But as Dr O'Reilly stated yesterday, in citing Kiernan as one of his heroes, this was as much to do with his achievements off the pitch. He was President of the Munster Branch, Cork Constitution (in their centenary year of '91-92) and the IRFU ('88-89), while he chaired practically every IRFU Committee since being elected to the Union in '83-84 until his recent retirement. He also served on the IRB, and was a director of RWC '99. Dr O'Reilly led Belvedere College to the Leinster Schools' Senior Cup final against Blackrock College in 1954 and later played for Leinster Schools' before a club career with Old Belvedere, Dolphin and Leicester which saw him win representative honours with Leinster, Ireland and the Lions.

While playing for Ireland 29 times over a career spanning 16 years and three decades (1955-1970) was an achievement in itself, Dr O'Reilly's exploits with the Lions still beggar belief. A year after his Irish debut he made his Lions debut in 1955 as an 19-year-old (still a record) right-winger in front of 95,000 people at Ellis Park, scoring a try in their 23-22 win over the Springboks.

He played in all four tests, scoring two tries and 16 all told on tour, and in all six tests to Australia and New Zealand in 1959, scoring four tries to establish a record six test tries (from ten tests). With another 22 touchdowns on that tour, his overall tally of 38 will take some beating even in the more free-scoring modern climate.

Enjoying yesterday's accolade discernibly, Dr O'Reilly enlivened the mood with a sequence of anecdotes, punctuated by an expressed belief that the players of his era may have been more free spirited, adding "our only contract was to enjoy ourselves while forging a career. The game today is exciting and tough, but I hope it's not just a job to the players. After rugby I hope they realise there is a thing called life."

Irish internationals Mick Galwey and Ronan O'Gara were on hand in the Sugar Club in Dublin to launch the 2001 Heineken Kinsale Sevens. The tournament takes place from May 4th-6th and is expected to attract a host of top class sides from around the world.

Already confirmed are teams including London Irish, the New Zealand Wekas, Edinburgh University, Scottish side Rugby Ecosse and last year's winners, the South Sea Drifters from Fiji. The tournament also encorporates junior and women's events, and the organisers, in honour of the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, have invited a team from Spain.

The event has proved a huge success in recent years, providing that great amalgam of fun and rugby.