Grand Slam winners 2009 - where are they now?
Nine years from Ireland’s second Grand Slam, Gavin Cummiskey looks at the class of 2009
The Ireland team celebrate winning the Grand Slam at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Consulting, farming, coaching and media darlings aplenty, here are the 2009 Grand Slammers revisited.
The campaign got off to a stunning start with Jamie Heaslip, Brian O’Driscoll and a smiling Gordon D’Arcy crossing for equally impressive tries in a brutal victory over France in Dublin. Next, Luke Fitzgerald - one of the new breed alongside Tommy Bowe, Rob Kearney and Stephen Ferris - grabbed a stylish brace in Rome.
English cheap shots by Delon Armitage and Riki Flutey then rattled yet failed to shatter O’Driscoll’s resolve as the captain dropped a goal and squirmed over for the crucial score in a 14-13 win. Afterwards, the Ireland coach tipped his hat to the GAA: “Leaving Croke Park with two wins against England, we believe, the Gaelic Athletic Association deserved that.”
For Murrayfield, Declan Kidney made three - two very odd - selection calls, dropping Heaslip, Tomás O’Leary and Paddy Wallace as Denis Leamy, Peter Stringer and Gordon D’Arcy were promoted (only D’Arcy was retained for Cardiff). Heaslip came off the bench to finish off - with a famous one finger salute - a rare Stringer break. O’Driscoll’s try saving tackle on Thom Evans avoided late disaster in Edinburgh.
On to a nerve jangling Millennium Stadium and the captain - scandalously denied world player of the year by Richie McCaw - kept his epic season aflame with another down and dirty try. Just 90 seconds later Ronan O’Gara’s punt-pass was gathered by Bowe for a 14-6 lead.
Wales chipped away but a late O’Gara drop goal (off Stringer’s bullet pass) appeared to end the 61-year wait for the Grand Slam. That is until Paddy Wallace’s ill-advised entry into a ruck gave Stephen Jones a 48 metre kick at the death. It dropped under the crossbar and into Geordan Murphy’s safe hands.
15 Rob Kearney
Chairman of Rugby Players Ireland. Kearney is 32 next week and still the undisputed Ireland fullback (82 tests, 13 tries). A two-time British and Irish Lions tourist, his legacy as the country’s greatest ever 15 was cemented on the 2009 tour of South Africa, while off field he’s a non-executive director of a recruitment company and Concern ambassador.
14 Tommy Bowe
Tommy Bowe shoe and clothing line. The end is nigh for Monaghan’s most famous son since Paddy Kavanagh lounged along the Grand Canal. The body keeps coming undone, but 30 tries from 69 tests (add five Lions caps) up until last season, rank him alongside the best all-time Irish wingers from Tony O’Reilly to Simon Geoghegan to Denis Hickie.
13 Brian O’Driscoll (capt)
Media mogul, investor and senior adviser (Teneo). Rugby chats on Friday nights are increasingly educational as Ireland’s greatest ever sportsman - George Best being undone by the bright lights - remains a familiar and welcome face across all platforms. Limped out of the 2014 Pro12 final at the RDS with nothing left to prove.
12 Gordon D’Arcy
Business consultant, Reform pilates (co-owner), guest speaker, wine bar (co-owner) and writer. An Irish Times rugby columnist since the 2015 World Cup, D’Arcy’s fascinating journey has undulated from child prodigy - capped as a teenage fullback at the 1999 World Cup - to Lions centre after Gary Ella reignited a stalled career that eventually finished with 83 test matches and a record 260 Leinster appearances.
11 Luke Fitzgerald
Works in AIB treasury department and podcaster. Stolen from rugby way too soon, Fitzgerald’s downward injury spiral began with ruptured knee ligaments in November 2009. The natural successor to O’Driscoll, theory never became reality but a stubborn streak saw him come back and, albeit briefly, light up the 2015 World Cup quarter-final against Argentina.
10 Ronan O’Gara
The Canterbury Crusaders backs coach surprised us all (again) by hightailing out of Paris, with his seven-strong clan, to become the first Irishman trusted with nurturing future All Blacks. Toured with Ireland, by invitation of Joe Schmidt, last summer. Also a horse owner and pundit.
9 Tomás O’Leary
Owner of luxury watch company Told & Co. Ended the Stringer era in 2009 when his physicality trumped slicker delivery but only ever made 19 starts. Usurped himself by Conor Murray, the post-Munster journeyman-years yielded little joy at London Irish before a brief return home and then on to Montpellier. The former Cork hurler called time last summer. Recently appeared on Dancing with the Stars.
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1 Marcus Horan
Player development manager at Munster and LIT lecturer. Now 40, the last Irish forward produced by the great Shannon pack, Horan recovered from heart problems in 2010 to regain the red jersey but the Cian Healy era had begun. Can be seen and heard on Pro14 touchlines for TG4.
2 Jerry Flannery
Coach, Limerick publican and director at Maximum Media. Still only 39, and already seven years retired due to a dodgy calf, Rory Best had to deputise for most of Flannery’s 41 caps before his leap into strength and conditioning at Arsenal morphed into Munster scrum then forwards coach.
3 John Hayes
Farmer. In a never to be repeated career, The Bull was transformed from lock to prop in a few rugged months down Invercargill way. The 44-year-old started 100 of his 107 test matches and almost always clocked the full 80 minutes. Phenomenon.
4 Donncha O’Callaghan
Unicef ambassador and digital advertiser. Retirement being imminent, he’s already crossed to the dark side with a newspaper column. Solid career by the 38-year-old spanning 17 seasons at Munster, three at Worcester Warriors (whom he captained), two Lions tours (when he played four tests) and 94 Irish caps.
5 Paul O’Connell
Coach and pundit. Seriously good value on the BBC and assistant coach of the Ireland under-20s. Rivals O’Driscoll for title of Ireland’s greatest ever player, three Lions tours leaves him with 115 tests and captained Ireland to back-to-back (2014 and 2015) Six Nations titles.
6 Stephen Ferris
Pundit and motivational speaker. Denied a long, legendary career by enforced retirement at 28, he’s since carved a niche on television and radio with much needed honest appraisal of peers. A ferocious blindside, Ferris toured South Africa with the 2009 Lions but only gathered 35 Irish caps.
7 David Wallace
Bank of Ireland regional development manager and Special Olympics director. In a hugely effective yet understated career, this hybrid backrower compiled 72 caps, two Lions tours, two European Cups and was only denied a third World Cup by Manu Tuilagi’s gruesome tackle. Guaranteed gainline success for both Ireland and Munster.
8 Jamie Heaslip
Tech investor, performance consultant and company director. Heaslip was another, at 34, to succumb to injury before time but besides two selection glitches, he was the starting Leinster, Ireland and Lions number eight from 2008 up until last summer. Ridiculous durability, rivalling Hayes, with plenty of off-field potential in years ahead.
Capped 110 times, the hooker is poised to become the fourth Irish person to lead Ireland to a Grand Slam after Karl Mullen, O’Driscoll and Fiona Coghlan but his legacy is already secured as the only Irish captain to beat the All Blacks and win in South Africa.
Performance consultant for Surf Life physio. Since returned to the Gold Coast in Australia after eight years in Belfast with 24 of his 34 Ireland caps off the bench.
Business development executive. Controversially dropped after round two in Rome as Kidney brought the curtain down on his 92 test match career. Has been forwards coach for Malahide and St Mary’s RFC (Mick O’Driscoll was the unused lock cover in the remaining three matches).
Beef farmer and coach. Leamy, forced to retire age 30 and undergo hip replacement surgery at 32, has found success overseeing Clonmel RFC and was part of the Tipperary hurlers backroom team when they won the All-Ireland in 2016.
Scrumhalf for hire and events company director. The 40 year old left Worcester in January, having started his journey through the English Premiership in 2013, but this 98 cap veteran recently said “I still feel as good as I did 15 years ago.”
Business consultant. Retired in 2014 after 13 seasons and 30 Irish caps, the long-standing O’Gara understudy co-founded the Paddy Wallace fund for autism and a rugby academy in Belfast.
Coach. A Leicester Tiger for 21 years, he’s been their attack/backs expert since 2013 but recently linked to the Cardiff Blues top job. Despite spending his entire career in England this rare attacking gem compiled 72 caps, scoring 18 tries.
Following the disappointing 2013 Six Nations, Declan Kidney was replaced by Joe Schmidt - after both men’s assistant Les Kiss held the fort on tour of North America - with UCC naming Kidney their Director of Sport and Physical Activity. London Irish are about to reunite Kidney and Kiss (recently released by Ulster). Forwards coach Gert Smal left Ireland in 2013 to become Western Province director of rugby.
2009 Six Nations results
Ireland 30-21 France - Croke Park
Ireland 38-9 Italy - Rome
Ireland 14-13 England - Croke Park
Ireland 22-15 Scotland - Murrayfield
Ireland 17-15 Wales - Cardiff