Where are they now?
(Former Ireland out-half)
Twenty-five years on from his second Triple Crown success, Paul Dean was at his south Dublin home in Carrickmines yesterday, watching the rugby international from Twickenham. As an Ireland out-half who was later on the Leinster coaching staff, it was hardly surprising that the main focus of his attention was Jonathan Sexton.
A sparkling rugby career with 32 caps effectively ended for Dean in far-off Perth in 1989. That was when his right knee was severely damaged after only seven minutes of his opening match for the Lions on their Australian Tour.
But he has since given a fascinating dimension to the notion of life after rugby by becoming a scratch golfer at his club, Blainroe. Indeed he played there yesterday morning in a regular fourball, before heading home to join his wife Lorraine, daughter Holly and son Conor in front of the TV.
Though the preparatory work had been done on the practice ground, the gods of golf positively beamed on Dean last year. As luck would have it, his 49th birthday on June 28 fell on a Saturday. Which meant he could celebrate it by playing in a club competition in which he just happened to do a score sufficiently good to earn one of the great distinctions of the royal and ancient amateur game.
As a latecomer to golf, he started as a 16-handicapper in 1984 at the height of his international rugby career. And while high-handicap clubmates continued to struggle, he had the effrontery to get down to a five before the decade was out.
Then business had to be taken care of, culminating in his current role as managing director of Umbro Ireland. But all the while, a magical sporting target was picking away at him. "When I found myself rapidly approaching 50, I set about achieving the goal of becoming a scratch golfer," he said. "And it was obviously special to do it on my birthday."
Particularly creditable was doing it despite a severed anterior ligament in his right knee. The damage which ended his rugby career was never repaired.
"Back then, it took a year to recover from the surgery so I left it, believing the time would shorten as technology improved. Though it occasionally flares up, I've never bothered to have it done." With a chuckle, he adds: "Your left knee is much more important in golf, you know."