Wednesday 17 January 2018

Where are they now?

Niall Gaffney

(Former Leinster rugby

and Dublin football star )

Almost four decades ago, Niall Gaffney played rugby and basketball for Leinster and Gaelic football for Dublin. He was an all-rounder who loved all sports and was good at them too.

He first started playing Gaelic football in Belgrove National School and his club was Clontarf. When he moved to St Paul's College in Raheny, he took up rugby and at that time played basketball too. His life revolved around sport but as he progressed through the ranks of all three disciplines something had to give. Basketball was the first to go. Gaffney found it hard to give up the sport as by his mid-teens he had reached a high level and had represented Leinster on a number of occasions.

However, he was making the grade as an inter-county footballer and a provincial rugby player so he wanted to focus on those two sports. In 1978, his dedication paid off and his Dublin minor team reached the All-Ireland final. Mayo provided the opposition and took the title thanks to two goals in the closing stages. Although they lost, Gaffney counts that day as one of his greatest memories. The game preceded a Dublin-Kerry All-Ireland final during the height of their famous rivalry and the atmosphere was electric.

From there he was called up to the senior panel and two years later played in a Leinster final but once again his side lost out, this time Offaly took the spoils. All the while Gaffney was playing rugby for Clontarf and Leinster. He was splitting his time between the two but because of the high level he was playing at and the demands that went with it, Gaffney eventually had to choose one or the other.

"Although I really enjoyed my Gaelic football, I just enjoyed rugby that bit more so I decided to focus on it. I enjoyed the social side of it, a lot of my friends were people I'd played rugby with growing up and that had an influence on my decision."

In November 1984, Gaffney moved to Manchester and joined Sale. He played with them until 1989 and then dropped down to play junior rugby with Old Salians for another four years.

He still lives in Manchester, where he works for William Hare Limited, a steel fabricator, and is married to Nicola. They have 21-year-old twins, Lily and James. Although he doesn't get to go to many Dublin or Leinster games, he still follows their progress.

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