Giants of the game – where are they now?

Brian O’Driscoll won the first of his Ireland caps against Australia in 1999. What became of the players he started alongside that day?


15 Conor O’Shea

He is the director of rugby at Harlequins, a position he accepted in 2010 after what has become known as “Bloodgate” and the sacking and suspension of Dean Richards following on from an incident during a Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster in 2009. He has won three trophies in his short time there. O’Shea is a respected analyst on RTÉ television, known for his incisive, articulate views. Back in 1999 he was a senior figure in the Ireland team (35 caps). In less than 12 months his career was over, cruelly finished in 2000 by a serious ankle injury. He had made 127 appearances for London Irish – he was previously with Lansdowne and Leinster – becoming the director of rugby on his retirement. The club won the Powergen Cup in 2002. He left Irish in 2005 to become the English RFU’s director of regional academies, moving to the English Institute of Sport (2008) before joining his current employer.

14 Justin Bishop

Born in Crawley, West Sussex, he made 279 appearances for London Irish, scoring 58 tries and then graduating, on hanging up his boots, to assistant manager of the academy and then defence coach (2011-2012). He had a spell with the Doncaster Knights for two years in between those appointments. Bishop played international age-grade rugby for both England and Ireland and Clive Woodward tried to persuade him to wear the red rose at Under-21 level. The talented wing though chose Ireland for whom his grandfather Tomas Dunn had been capped against the All Blacks in 1935.The young Bishop was a very accomplished squash player and was nationally ranked in England as a 19-year-old. When London Irish won the Powergen final (2002), he scored two tries in the final. He made 25 appearances for Ireland, crossing for eight tries. He scored on his debut against the Springboks. As he recalled: “I didn’t touch the ball for the first 18 and a half minutes, then the first time it came my way I scored.” He is currently the business development manager for the IWS group in West Sussex.

3 Brian O’Driscoll

Warren Gatland, the then Irish coach, gave him his debut that day, one that allowed O’Driscoll to play against his rugby idol, Australian centre Tim Horan. A future Leinster team-mate, Nathan Spooner, made his debut for the Wallabies at outhalf. At this point, O’Driscoll had yet to play for his province.

O’Driscoll’s career, which finishes at his behest at the end of the season, has been stellar. He scored his first try for Ireland in his fourth international (USA), his first drop goal (sixth cap, Romania) before the 2000 Six Nations championship in which he announced his prodigious talent with a hat-trick against France at the Stade de France, helping Ireland to secure a first win in Paris since 1972.

Four Lions tours (2001, 2005, 2009, 2013), an ill-fated one as captain in New Zealand, have produced some memorable highlights, not least his brilliant solo try in Brisbane, the ground in which he made his Irish debut. He’s broken so many try-scoring records (Irish, Six Nations) and many others, leading his country with great distinction and becoming a superb ambassador for the game on and off the pitch. He’s won every title possible with Leinster, including three Heineken Cups. He’s proved an outstanding contributor to the sport and for many he represents the first among equals. Led Ireland a record 83 times in his 128 caps.

12 Kevin Maggs

Although a Bristol boy, born and reared, few could match the fanatical commitment that the centre gave to the green jersey. Few cared more and still less would match the utter emotional and physical investment he made to Ireland’s cause. He won 70 caps, scoring 15 tries during a test career that began with a debut against New Zealand in 1997 until his final match against Japan – he scored a try that day – in Osaka (2005).

There was an element of good fortune in how he declared for Ireland.

The Irish coach at the time Brian Ashton travelled to watch David Corkery play for Bristol. The club’s team manager Ralph Knibbs informed Ashton that they had a young centre whose grandfather was from Limerick.

Maggs was a very physical, powerful ball-carrier, a legacy from his days of laying kerbstones, and a brilliant defender. His playing career was divided between Bristol, Bath and Ulster. That day he was winning his 18th cap, and scored a try as he would do a week later in the second test. He was a super foil for O’Driscoll. He took over as head coach of English Championship side Moseley in 2010, a role he still fulfils today.

11 Matt Mostyn

Gatland was considering playing the Sydney native in the number 13 jersey until O’Driscoll stepped up against New South Wales and effectively ended any debate. Mostyn made his debut that day against the country of his birth, going on to win six caps for Ireland and scoring three tries.

His first port of call in Europe was the French club Begles Bordeaux. He spent one season at the French club and a year at Connacht before joining the Newport Gwent Dragons. He played 80 times for the Welsh side in three seasons before rejoining Connacht in the summer of 2003. He made more than 100 appearances for the province – lining out with Galwegians too – before retiring in 2008.

He played four matches for Ireland in the ’99 World Cup, his last cap coming in the defeat to Argentina in Lens. The Pumas were to provide the high point for Mostyn, as well as a subsequent low, as in a pre-World Cup game against Argentina, he crossed for a hat-trick of tries. He was an excellent servant to Connacht, well liked and respected. He lives in Sydney and works for Sherrington Project Management.

10 David Humphreys

He has become synonymous with success with Ulster, both as a player and now in his current role as operations director. The 42-year-old is conspicuous in his role in facilitating Ulster’s push towards silverware. He was an integral part of their greatest moment to date, winning the European Cup in 1999, by beating Colomiers 21-6.

Humphreys captained the team and while he dropped a goal in the final – fullback Simon Mason kicked six penalties – it was the outhalf’s brilliance throughout the campaign that is the most powerful memory.

His performance in the 1995 Varsity match in scoring all Oxford’s 19 points in defeat pre-empted a spell at London Irish before he returned home to Belfast.

The Ballymena-born outhalf made his Ireland debut against France (1996), winning 72 caps and scoring 560 points, and was a long-time rival of Ronan O’Gara’s for the number 10 jersey. Known as “wee Jackie” (after Jack Kyle) he was a superb running outhalf. He announced his retirement with Ireland after not playing in the 2006 Six Nations.

His last last game for Ulster was a cameo in May 2008, against Cardiff at Ravenhill, when he was given a standing ovation. He is also a qualified solicitor.

9 Tom Tierney

The Garryowen scrumhalf took over from Conor McGuinness, who had been Ireland’s first choice between 1997 and the end of the Six Nations that season. Tierney was one of three scrumhalves on that tour, the others Ciarán Scally and Brian O’Meara, but it was the Limerick man who was chosen to start the test match.

He won eight caps and was Ireland’s preferred nine for the second test in Australia, the World Cup warm-up and all the matches during the tournament.

If he thought the nightmare of Lens was bad, his final cap in the opening game of the Six Nations Championship, against England at Twickenham, was pretty severe too as they lost 50-18. He would give up the jersey to Peter Stringer.

He played for Richmond, Garryowen, Munster, Galwegians, Connacht and Leicester. As a 16-year-old, soccer was his sport, reflected in the fact that he had trials for Ipswich Town, Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest. He is the full-time head coach at Garryowen.

1 Peter Clohessy

The “Claw” is a Young Munster, Munster and Ireland legend whose style of play was uncompromising but it belied his excellent handling and ball-carrying skills. A great scrummager, he won 54 caps for Ireland, making his debut against France in 1993. For the quiz question enthusiasts, fullback Ciaran Clarke and centre Brian Glennon, as a replacement, were also handed first caps that afternoon.

The French would regard him as a bête noire and paid him the compliment of frequently trying to beat the tar out of him, but he never took a backward step and on one occasion his response earned him a playing sabbatical with Queensland as he served out a ban. His final cap was also against the French, in 2002. He scored four tries for Ireland.

A prop who played both sides of the front row, he came close to European glory with Munster and but for a back injury would have enjoyed a deserved honour in making the 1997 Lions tour. Paul Wallace was called in.

The 47-year-old owns and runs arguably the most famous hostelry in Limerick, Clohessy’s Bar, Gandelow restaurant and the Sin Bin nightclub on Howley’s Quay and Croker’s Bar and Restaurant in Murroe.

2 Keith Wood

Where to start? One of the best players ever to lace a boot for Ireland, he made a huge impact in the global game. The list of milestones and landmarks is considerable and would easy fill this slot on its own. A son of Ireland and Lions prop Gordon, he won the IRB World Player of the Year in its inaugural year (2001).

Growing up, he played a number of sports before settling on rugby, winning two league titles with Garryowen before joining Harlequins.

He came back to play with Munster for one year before going back to Quins. He made his Ireland debut against Australia at the same venue, Brisbane, five years earlier in 1994.

Despite suffering serious shoulder/neck injuries, he won 58 caps, scoring a world record 15 tries for a hooker, including four in a single game. He was an integral part of two Lions tours (2-1 win over Springboks in 1997, 2-1 defeat to Australia in 2001) playing in five tests. Among other interests he writes for the Daily Telegraph and Evening Herald and is a rugby analyst for BBC television.

3 Paul Wallace

Paul Wallace, the middle of three brothers (wing Richard and flanker David are the others), achieved the notable distinction of playing for Ireland and the Lions. He amassed quite a CV in Irish terms, playing for the national side at schools, under-21, development, A and senior, winning 45 test caps and scoring five tries. He played the majority of his rugby with Saracens before returning to Leinster in 2001.

Although not an original selection for the 1997 Lions tour to South Africa, he was drafted in when Clohessy withdrew and made the most of his opportunity. England’s Jason Leonard would have been favourite for a test spot but Wallace’s performances dictated otherwise and by the end of the tour, Lions captain Martin Johnson paid him the ultimate accolade by describing the Irishman as the “player of the tour” for his work in pinning down Os du Randt.

He’s been a familiar face on Sky Sports rugby coverage for quite some time and also writes a rugby column.

4 Paddy Johns

A former Ireland captain, the 45-year-old dentist represented his country on 59 occasions between 1990 and 2000. The Portadown man played his rugby with Dungannon, Saracens and Ulster and made his debut against Argentina at Lansdowne Road, a 20-18 win on an afternoon when Phil Lawlor and Alain Rolland were also capped for the first time.

He led Ireland on the 1998 tour to South Africa, one dubbed the “Lucky Man tour”, because of the Verve song chosen as a theme. Affable and quietly spoken off the pitch, on it he was a tough cookie. Johns retained the captaincy through the rest of the year and also the following Six Nations. Indeed he handed over the armband for this match to Dion O’Cuinneagain.

The Dungannon man made his final appearance for Ireland – at the start of his test career he had played number eight – in November 2000 against Japan, when another son of Ulster and second row Gary Longwell made his debut. Johns is a dental surgeon at the Southern Health Trust in Belfast.

5 Jeremy Davidson

The former Methody schoolboy won his first cap in 1995 when he was one of five newcomers in the team – Christian Saverimutto, Henry Hurley, Sean McCahill and Allen Clarke – that beat Fiji.

He played blindside flanker that day but moved to the second row for the majority of his 32 caps.

An excellent athlete he was one of four Irishman to tour South Africa in the Lions (1997) forcing his way into the test team. He played all three in the series in the second row alongside captain Martin Johnson and was voted by his fellow Lions as their player of the tour.

He would tour again with the Lions to Australia four years later but didn’t make the test side. His career was pockmarked by injury and a bad knee problem effectively ended it in 2003.

He played for Dungannon, London Irish, Castres Olympique and Ulster and when he finished his playing career he went back to coach at three of the four clubs. In 2011 he agreed to take over at French Pro2D side, Aurillac, turning them around from a bottom three club to contenders for promotion to the Top 14. He’s still there and the impression he’s made can be gleaned from the fact he was interviewed for the forwards coach position – Jono Gibbes got it – at Clermont Auvergne.

6 Dion O’Cuinneagain

Warren Gatland handed him the captaincy for the first time for the test in Brisbane. He succeeded Paddy Johns in the role. The son of a Dublin dentist and an English mother, he grew up in Cape Town playing underage rugby for South Africa.

He played for Western Province before agreeing to join the Sale Sharks in 1997. Two years later he arrived in Ireland, lining out with Ballymena and Ulster and winning 19 caps for Ireland between 1998 and 2000, with his final cap coming against Italy. Later that year decided to return to Cape Town to complete his medical studies.

He has managed the South African Sevens team and continues to coach when not working as a GP at Rust en Vrede medical practice in Cape Town.

7 Andy Ward

Born in New Zealand, he was playing with Ballynahinch when he was called up by Ulster and became an integral part of their march to the European Cup.

He made 28 appearances for Ireland, the first of which was in 1998 when Gatland’s side lost narrowly, 18-16, to France in Paris.

Two of the three tries he scored were against Romania, but not in the same game. Coincidentally his final appearance in a green jersey was also against the French: he came on as a replacement in a match the home side won 22-15.

Ward continued to play for Ballynahinch and also coached at the club as well as doing the same for Belfast Harlequins. He also played rugby league for the Ballynahinch Rabbitohs. In 2011 he was appointed the strength and conditioning coach for the Antrim GAA football team.

He now runs the Andy Ward fitness studios in Banbridge and is a rugby analyst for the BBC.

8 Victor Costello

A schoolboy star with Blackrock College, he initially moved up to Stradbrook to play with the club for a couple of years before moving to St Mary’s College. He also had a brief spell at London Irish. He was a mainstay of the Leinster team in two spells over nine years, having spent from 2003-2005 with Connacht. An underage international, he was a superb athlete and represented Ireland at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona in the shot putt. Four years later Murray Kidd gave Costello his debut against the US and he went on to win 39 caps, making his final appearance against Scotland in 2004.

During his playing days, he had a fear of flying and it was often Leinster prop Reggie Corrigan’s task to sit beside Costello in the first row of seats and try and take his mind off flying. The last job anyone would have pencilled him in for on his retirement in 2005 was that as pilot but today he flies Ryanair planes.


Ross Nesdale (hooker): National marketing manager at Power Farming in Waikato, New Zealand.
Reggie Corrigan
(prop): owns catering and contract cleaning businesses, Sports show host on Sunshine Radio alongside Ken Doherty, and coach at Greystones RFC.
Malcolm O’Kelly
: works for a medical implants company.
David Corkery
: works for physiotherapist supply company VivoMed.
Ciaran Scally
: Director in corporate finance at KPMG.
Eric Elwood
: Works for Omega Pharma.
Jonathan Bell
: Defence coach with Ulster.

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