Monday 24 June 2019

Peter O'Mahony becomes the 11th Irishman to captain a Lions Test team - Here's the first 10

Brian O'Driscoll, left, and Paul O'Connell, British & Irish Lions, following their side's victory. British & Irish Lions Tour 2013, 3rd Test, Australia v British & Irish Lions. ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney, Australia. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Brian O'Driscoll, left, and Paul O'Connell, British & Irish Lions, following their side's victory. British & Irish Lions Tour 2013, 3rd Test, Australia v British & Irish Lions. ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney, Australia. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Jack O'Toole

Munster's Peter O'Mahony will become the 11th Irishman to captain a British & Irish Lions Test side after he was named ahead of tour captain Sam Warburton for the Lions opening Test against the All Blacks in Auckland this weekend.

O'Mahony follows Paul O'Connell and Brian O'Driscoll as recent Irish Lions captains, with Ireland now boasting three Test captains in the last 12 years after Brian O'Driscoll captained the Lions on the 2005 tour of New Zealand before Paul O'Connell skippered the 2009 Lions on their tour of South Africa.

However, before O'Driscoll led the Lions on the 2005 tour, it was 22 years since an Irishman had led the Lions in a Test series; with former Ireland hooker Ciaran Fitzgerald captaining the 1983 tour to New Zealand.

With O'Mahony set to become the latest Irishman to lead the Lions into a test match, we reflect on the 10 Irish Test captains that came before him.

1910 South Africa

Tommy Smyth

Smyth was the first Irishman to ever captain a Lions Test side when he was named tour captain for the 1910 tour of South Africa.

The Belfast prop won 14 caps for Ireland between 1908 to 1912 and he led the Lions in two of the three Tests against the Springboks, as the Lions fell to a 2-1 series defeat.

Walter E. Rees and William Cail only took 26 players on that tour in a side that wore dark blue jerseys, an alteration to the Lions traditional colour of red.

1938 South Africa

Sammy Walker

Walker became the second Irish prop to lead the Lions, and just like Smyth 28 years before him, he played in two of the three Tests with the Lions once again going down 2-1 to the Springboks in another series defeat in South Africa.

1950 New Zealand and Australia

Karl Mullen


Mullen was the third Irish front-rower to lead the Lions when he captained the Lions on the 1950 tour of New Zealand and Australia, just two years after he had led Ireland to their first Grand Slam in 1948.

Mullen was capped 25 times by Ireland from 1947 to 1952 and was the first Irish Lions captain to play in three Tests, as the Lions lost four consecutive Tests to the All Blacks before being defeated in back-to-back Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane and then Sydney.

1955 South Africa

Robin Thompson

The RBAI graduate made his debut for Ulster as an 18-year-old and went on to win 11 caps for Ireland. Thompson captained Ireland in 1954 against both France and Wales before leading the Lions on their 1955 tour of South Africa, where he started three of four tests as the Lions drew the series 2-2 after entering the final Test in Port Elizabeth with a 2-1 series lead.

1959 New Zealand and Australia

Ronnie Dawson

Dawson followed Thompson as captain from the 1955 tour and led the Lions in six Test matches as the Lions completed a 2-0 series win over Australia before losing three consecutive Tests in New Zealand.

The tourists did however manage to avoid a series whitewash when they won the final test 9-6 in Eden Park in Auckland.

1968 South Africa

Tom Kiernan

The Munster fullback became the first Irish back to captain the Lions when he skippered the team on their 1968 tour of South Africa.

Although he performed admirably on tour, scoring 35 points through four tests, he once again led the Lions on another disappointing tour of South Africa where the Springboks defeated the tourists in three tests, while the Lions salvaged a draw in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.

1974 South Africa

Willie John McBride


The orchestrator of the famous '99 call' and one of Ireland's greatest ever players.

McBride is still regarded to this day as one of the most iconic players in Lions history and he was named captain for the 1974 tour of South Africa after gaining selection on the 1971 tour of New Zealand three years earlier.

McBride led the Lions to a 3-0 series win with the fourth and final game in Johannesburg a 13-13 draw.

1983 New Zealand

Ciarán Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was made the Lions captain after he led Ireland to the Triple Crown in 1982 before leading his country to the same honour again in 1985.

The Irish hooker enjoyed great success with Ireland but he couldn't quite replicate that level of success with the Lions when they toured New Zealand in 1983, as the tourists slumped to a 4-0 series defeat including a 38–6 shellacking in the fourth and final test at Eden Park.

2005 New Zealand

Brian O’Driscoll

O'Driscoll was just hitting his prime when he was named captain for the 2005 tour.

However, the Ireland centre famously lasted less than 90 seconds into the first Test when he was thrust by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu into the Jade Stadium turf in Christchurch.

The Ireland captain would represent the Lions on further tours in 2009 and 2013, and notched his first series win on the 2013 tour of Australia despite being infamously dropped for the series deciding third Test in Sydney.

2009 South Africa

Paul O'Connell

O'Connelll was named captain of the Lions by Ian McGeechan for the 2009 tour of South Africa in a bruising series with the Springboks where the Lions lost 2-1, in large thanks to a late Morne Steyn penalty in the second Test in Pretoria.

O'Connell, however, was immense on that tour and would go on to represent the Lions on their 2013 tour of Australia where he broke his arm during the first Test in Brisbane.

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