Saturday 21 April 2018

Ireland rugby great Duggan dies aged 67

Willie Duggan in 1984. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Willie Duggan in 1984. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Ian Begley

Leinster and Ireland great Willie Duggan, one of the finest rugby players this country produced, has passed away.

He died aged 67 in his home in Dunmore, Co Kilkenny, after a suspected heart attack.

Duggan played as number eight for both province and country.

He was on the Lions' 1977 tour to New Zealand, featuring in all four test matches against the All Blacks, in a 3-1 series loss. A much-admired character in the game, Duggan played 41 times for Ireland - scoring two tries.

He also had the dubious honour, along with Wales' Geoff Wheel, of being the first player to be sent off during a then Five Nations game.

Scottish referee Norman Samson sent both men off following some fisticuffs at a line out during the 1977 encounter at Cardiff Arms Park.

Duggan never admitted to being sent off. Instead, as the late Moss Keane recalled it, the referee simply asked him to vacate the playing area.

"Duggan always maintained he was never sent off," said Keane. "He said to me the referee came towards him and said would he mind leaving the field?

"And Duggan says, 'Sure not at all. I was b******d anyway'."

Duggan finished his career in 1984 as Ireland captain and ran the lighting shop in Kilkenny he took over from his father.

He is survived by his wife Ellen and three children Willie, Helena and Monica.

His family have requested mourners do not wear black at his funeral.

"Willie would have wanted a party, so, a celebration of his life will take place at his home in Dunmore, Kilkenny, from 4pm to 8pm on Wednesday, please dress colourfully [not in black]," his death notice said.

Leinster CEO Mick Dawson said: "I knew Willie personally and he was a larger than life character and it's very difficult news to digest."

Irish Independent

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