Friday 19 January 2018

Sad passing of legend Jim McCarthy

Jim McCarthy (left) is presented the Munster Rugby Hall of Fame Award by Cyril Fitzgerald, Munster Branch Vice President
Jim McCarthy (left) is presented the Munster Rugby Hall of Fame Award by Cyril Fitzgerald, Munster Branch Vice President Newsdesk Newsdesk

Munster and Ireland rugby legend Jim McCarthy, one of the heroes of Ireland's 1948 Grand Slam winning team, has sadly passed away. He died peacefully at his home in Dublin on Tuesday.

Born in Cork in the mid-1920s, James Stephen McCarthy played 28 times for Ireland, making a try-scoring debut in the 1948 Championship opener away to France. He was ever-present during the campaign, forming a legendary back-row combination with Bill McKay and Des O'Brien.

The quick-witted flanker, a Munster Rugby and Irish Rugby Writers' Hall of Fame inductee, scored eight Test tries, a then record for a forward, with braces against Scotland (1949) and France (1952).

He was the first Munster player to captain Ireland, leading his country four times between 1954 and 1955, including a win over Scotland in Belfast.

He skippered Munster against South Africa at Thomond Park in 1951 and New Zealand at the Mardyke in 1954, and also played for the Barbarians on four occasions against Welsh club sides (1948-49).

A match programme profile from his first international season said that McCarthy was 'a wholehearted wing forward in the real Munster tradition. He is a tireless skirmisher who is now adding ability to handle and run with the ball to his previous skill as a dribbler (which was an integral part of the game back then)'.

The Ballintemple native, known affectionately as 'Jim Mac', won three Championships (1948, 1949 and 1951) and two Triple Crowns with Ireland and toured New Zealand and Australia with the British & Irish Lions in 1950.

The small dynamo of an openside was one of the fittest players of his generation, covering a huge amount of ground in a game. He was a stalwart of Dolphin, with whom he won Munster Junior and Senior Cup honours.

He also tasted success with Christian Brothers College in the 1943 Munster Schools Senior Cup.

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 Dé go raibh a anam.

Irish Independent

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