Sunday 18 November 2018

The Munster heroes of 1978 who beat the All Blacks: where are they now?

 

Back, from left: touch-judge John Cole (Munster Branch and Shannon), Gerry McLoughlin, Les White, Moss Keane, Donal Spring, Colm Tucker, Pat Whelan, Brendan Foley, referee Corris Thomas (WRU). Front row, Tony Ward, Christy Cantillon, Moss Finn, Seamus Dennison, Donal Canniffe, Greg Barrett, Jimmy Bowen, Larry Moloney. Photo by Independent News and Media/Getty Images
Back, from left: touch-judge John Cole (Munster Branch and Shannon), Gerry McLoughlin, Les White, Moss Keane, Donal Spring, Colm Tucker, Pat Whelan, Brendan Foley, referee Corris Thomas (WRU). Front row, Tony Ward, Christy Cantillon, Moss Finn, Seamus Dennison, Donal Canniffe, Greg Barrett, Jimmy Bowen, Larry Moloney. Photo by Independent News and Media/Getty Images
David Kelly

David Kelly

Where are the Munster heroes of 1978 who beat the All Blacks?

1. Gerry McLoughlin

Shannon stalwart who cemented his legend in the red of Munster before eventually establishing a notable career in the green of Ireland.

Capable on both sides of the scrum, the man known as ‘Ginger’ or ‘Locky’ scored one of the most famous tries in Irish history when dragging half his team-mates and opponents across the English try-line during the 1982 Triple Crown season. A teacher, he also became, aptly, Mayor of Limerick in 2012 after a lengthy stint on the city council.

2. Les White

Coach Tom Kiernan unearthed a gem in the London Irish player who, although he did not have a lengthy career with the province – he was dropped the following season after four years in the team – played the game until his 49th year in his native England. White worked in the aerospace industry in his Fareham base and is now believed to be living in Australia.

3. Moss Keane

A totemic figure on the field and a titanic personality off it until his untimely death, aged just 62, in October, 2010. From Currow in Co Kerry, ‘Mossie’ was originally a Gaelic footballer for his county and UCC before being introduced to rugby as a 23-year-old student; the mutual love affair would win him 51 caps and 11 successive years in an Irish shirt, peaking with a 1982 Triple Crown. Worked for the Department of Agriculture before his untimely passing.

4. Donal Spring

One of the four Dublin-based players, Spring uniquely captained both Munster and Leinster during a playing career which, as well as Lansdowne, took him to France (Bagneres). Four days after beating the All Blacks, he won the second of his seven Irish caps in the second-row. Still a leading solicitor in Dublin where he heads up a significant practice.

5. Colm Tucker

Eventually recognised, all too briefly, as a peerless flanker, particularly at six, Tucker would win only two caps for his country but was correctly deemed worthy enough of selection on the 1980 Lions tour to South Africa, where he played nine times, twice in Tests. A sales manager in his native Limerick, Tucker became president of Shannon and also managed Munster during the early days of professionalism. Sadly, he passed away in 2012, aged 59.

6. Pat Whelan

Munster’s hooker was also their pack leader. Went on to coach Garryowen, Munster and Ireland ‘A’, as well as being selector and manager of Ireland before becoming a key administrator. Won 19 Irish caps. Involved in construction, spearheading the Thomond Park re-development and still on the World Rugby council.

7. Brendan Foley

A key component in Munster’s try, given his slapped lineout delivery at the front. Shannon devotee Foley won 11 caps for Ireland and arguably could have won more in a competitive second-row position. Son Anthony succeeded him as a provincial and Irish legend, captaining Munster to European glory in 2006, then coaching the province before his tragic sudden death two years ago. Brendan still runs a successful coach hire company in Killaloe. Daughter Rosie also played for Ireland.

8. Tony Ward

Creator of Munster try with his chipped kick and the drop-goal hero of the hour, ‘Wardy’ became a beloved adopted man of Munster and Garryowen, although he also played for Greystones and Leinster.

Then reigning European Player of the Year, Ward would embark upon a storied rivalry with his good friend Ollie Campbell for the Irish number 10 shirt. Toured with Lions in 1980 before becoming a respected pundit and, for many years, rugby editor of the Irish Independent.

9. Christy Cantillon

Scorer of Munster’s try, Cantillon’s career was cruelly cut short when sustaining a second cruciate ligament injury which forced him to retire aged 28. Developed a successful career as an insurance broker. Coached Cork Constitution to the first AIL title in 1990 and currently lives in Little Island, Cork. Also the Munster Branch delegate for UCC RFC.

10. Moss Finn

One-time Irish schools’ out-half, and a JCT and SCT winner with Pres in Cork, Finn was a classy footballer and spent 14 years at Munster and won 14 caps for his country, scoring four tries, winning a Triple Crown in 1982. Featured for UCC, London Irish and Cork Constitution, mostly at out-half or centre. Coached Con and Munster backs in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Still runs the family business in Cork, Finn’s Corner – a sports, school uniform and catering clothing shop – which has been in the family since 1878.

11. Seamus Dennison

Even now, the tackle heard around the world on Kiwi star winger Stu Wilson still sends a shudder down the spine thanks to the constant reminders of the famous Guinness ad. From Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick, he played with UCG and Connacht before his Munster stint and also won three caps for Ireland. Won four Munster Senior Cups with Garryowen before finishing his playing days in junior rugby at Roscrea. Taught history and geography in the Roscrea vocational school, as well as coaching their teams.

12. Donal Canniffe

Immortality and mortality visited the Munster captain on this extraordinary day. At half-time, he invoked immortality by cajoling his men to keep going; moments after victory, he received word that his father, Dan, had died suddenly that afternoon after listening to the game on the radio. Multi-medalled whether with Lansdowne, his home club, or Cork Constitution, his adopted home, Canniffe won two caps before retiring in 1982. Selector and coach with Lansdowne for several years. Retired from Norwich Union, the insurance company with whom he worked for several decades.

13. Greg Barrett

Won six League medals and two Cups with Cork Con. Worked as a regional manager with Standard Life Insurance before establishing his own company in Cork, Greg Barrett Financial Services.

From vice-president in Con, Barrett has become one of the leading administrators in Irish rugby. In 2017, he was appointed Chairman of the IRFU Rugby Committee and is a member of the IRFU Management Committee and National Professional Game Board.

14. Jimmy Bowen

Bowen’s dainty feet and quick thinking ensured something came of Wardy’s chip, gathering at pace, eluding Wilson, before breaking the tackle of Brian McKechnie and feeding Cantillon.

Won three caps in 1977 but his career was mocked by serious injuries – six to his knee – which curtailed his playing appearances for Lansdowne and St Mary’s after he moved to Dublin in 1981, where he worked for GE Woodchester.

15. Larry Moloney

Moloney would also play the All Blacks later that week but Ireland’s wait for a victory would continue for some time. It would be the fourth and final cap for a man known as the prince of full-backs.

Worked with AIB in Thurles all his life. Played for Garryowen and this year celebrated another notable anniversary, the 50th year since kicking St Munchin’s to the Munster Senior Schools Cup.

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