Death of Paddy Reid: Grand Slam winner left great legacy
Garryowen centre was huge influence at club despite serving 40-year ban
Members of the 1948 Ireland Grand Slam pictured in 2005, from left: Jim McCarthy, Jack Kyle, Paddy Reid, Jimmy Nelson, Karl Mullen and Michael O’Flanagan. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho
The Garryowen centre became a coach of high yet anonymous renown due to a 40-year ban he received for decamping to rugby league, following his last game for Ireland on that historic day at Ravenhill in March 13th, 1948.
Later that night Reid and two team-mates, Jack Daly and Des O’Brien, spent a few hours in a Belfast prison cell.
But Reid’s legacy burrows deeper than his steely defensive exploits over four internationals (and that famous try at Stade Colombes in the 13-6 defeat of France).
“My father, Gordon, a Lion in ’59, benefited greatly from training with the blunt-talking Reid,” wrote Keith Wood in The Daily Telegraph in 2009.
“That is where I first met Paddy, donning a tracksuit to coach his beloved Garryowen,” Wood continued.
“He had a huge influence on the club but never could his name be mentioned on any official documentation or in any newspaper account. But in 1989 his ban was up and, as a callow youth of 17, I was moulded into a player by an exile in his own game, his love for rugby undiminished by his time behind the scenes.
“Paddy loves the game to be free and fast-flowing. He wants flair and something a bit different from the players.”
Reid was brought up in the Westfields area of the city, where his family ran a pig business. “There were four bacon factories in Limerick,” noted an Irish Independent interview with Reid, again, on the cusp of Brian O’Driscoll’s men ending the six-decade gap to Karl Mullen’s first Irish Grand Slam outfit.
Not long after beating Wales 6-3 to capture the championship, Reid joined Huddersfield, and eventually, Halifax, where he was paid £7 a match and given a job.
Within three seasons he returned home where he eventually spent 22 years working for the Beamish and Crawford brewer. He also became president of the Munster Branch in 1996-97.
And what came of that incident with Orangemen in the wee hours of the Grand Slam night?
“T’was nothing at all,” Reid was once quoted. “The band was passing up and down, playing their flutes and I walked out in the middle of them.
“Next thing, we were ushered away and down to the barracks. ‘Don’t do that again,’ this sort of thing. We were nationalist to the bone!”
It helped that the three heroes were accompanied by former Ireland captain Derek Monteith, a northern Protestant and lawyer, who negotiated their release around 2am.
Perhaps most fittingly of all, Wood added of Reid: “His quiet influence on generations of Garryowen players is a formidable legacy.”