Saturday 24 March 2018

where are they now?


(Former Ireland centre)

It's 22 years since Philip Danaher lined out against Scotland for his first Irish cap. Ireland won, and it remains one of his greatest rugby memories. It took 12 years for Ireland to beat the Scots again.

"Getting your first cap is always an amazing occasion but back then Scotland had a more settled team and a lot of the game was played off the back row. They were more structured about where they were going than our side. We were going through a bit of transition at the time."

Danaher grew up in Abbeyfeale on the Limerick-Kerry border so it's no surprise that Gaelic football was the first sport he developed a penchant for. Due to a family move over the border, he transferred to the Duagh club and ended up representing both Kerry and Limerick at minor level. He went to St Munchin's in Limerick City, the breeding ground for many rugby internationals, and it was there he discovered that football wasn't his only strength.

He quickly caught the eye in his new sport, and was selected at out-half for the Irish schools team. Danaher made his Munster debut in 1987, and the following year saw the beginning of an eight-year international career. Danaher went on to earn 28 caps and captain Ireland.

His club rugby was played with Lansdowne and Garryowen. He led the latter to All-Ireland league glory in 1992, the same year he captained his country against France and on tour to New Zealand.

However, his success on the rugby field did not deter his Gaelic football ambitions. He transferred back to Fr Casey's in Abbeyfeale and was on the team which won the county intermediate championship for the first time in 24 years.

When legendary Kerry footballer John O'Keeffe became manager of the Limerick senior team, he called on the Irish centre to fill the full-back spot. It was a period of relative success and they made it to the 1991 Munster final where they were narrowly defeated by their neighbours Kerry.

Retiring from rugby in 1995, Danaher went on to get involved in coaching. He travelled to South Africa on the Ireland tour as assistant coach to Warren Gatland.

He now lives in Limerick and is owner and operator of McDonalds restaurants in the city. He remains involved in Garryowen, and marvels at how the sport has changed since he hung up his boots.

"The conditioning of players has changed a great deal and the game is more explosive, it's played at a much quicker pace now. During my time as a player, beating England was the measure of everything and we were fortunate to beat them twice during that period."

Sunday Independent

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