Saturday 15 December 2018

Munster legend Jim McCarthy dies aged 90: A great character and an even greater player

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy

Jim McCarthy, who died yesterday aged 90, was one of the key members of the previous Ireland team to complete back-to-back championship titles before Joe Schmidt's current side emulated the feat.

Those of a certain vintage would confidently declare that McCarthy, was one of Ireland's best openside flankers; he was convincingly one of the game's greatest characters.

His impact for Ireland was seismic and he was a prodigious try scorer, dotting down eight times in the 28 caps he earned between 1948 and 1955.

His arrival on the scene in 1948 was more than coincidental; he was crucial to the cause.

His debut in the Stade Yves du Manoir on New Year's Day was marked by a try against France in the first game of the Five Nations campaign, culminating in the famous Ravenhill win against Wales that clinched the Grand Slam.

"He was a fitness fanatic," captain Karl Mullen would relate many years later.

Although they lost to France in 1949, a two-try return against Scotland, and a further try against Wales helped his side retain the Triple Crown and the championship title.

McCarthy (pictured) toured with the 1950 Lions to New Zealand and Australia and was generally declared to be the most popular of the tourists on that seminal trip, during which he made 13 appearances.

McCarthy joined Dolphin from CBC where he won a Munster Schools Senior Cup; he went on to win Munster Senior and Junior Cups.

He held the distinction of being the first Munster man to captain Ireland.

"It is with great regret we hear of the passing of one of our most famous players Jim McCarthy," said a statement from Dolphin yesterday.

"We salute one of our finest son's and express our sympathies to the McCarthy family on their loss."

In John Scally's book of '100 Irish Rugby Greats', the author noted of McCarthy: "He is best remembered as a breakaway forward of the highest quality. He brought a new dimension to wing forward play, particularly in relation to helping the out-half breach the opposing half.

"A flying redhead, he was an invaluable ally to Jack Kyle, combining with him to devastating effect. His back row combination with Old Belvedere's Des O'Brien and Bill McKay (Queen's University), in those years, is among the finest in Irish rugby history."

Asked about the secret to his success as a flanker, McCarthy simply said: "Wherever the ball is, you be there. When I was playing for Ireland, the best place to be was two feet behind Jackie Kyle."

Ar dheis lámh Dé go raibh a hanam.

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