Monday 23 October 2017

Where are they now?

Fergus Slattery (Blackrock, Ireland and the Lions)

Fergus Slatterly
Fergus Slatterly

THE day Fergus Slattery was born in 1949, the doctor was in a hurry. "Ireland were playing for the Triple Crown in Lansdowne Road -- and the doctor wanted to be there," was the story his mother told Fergus. In 1982, Fergus squared that particular circle when he was on the next Irish team to win the Triple Crown.

"That was the highlight of my Ireland career," he recalls, "but it should have been in 1972, when we won the two hard matches, away to England and France, and Scotland and Wales refused to travel. We would definitely have beaten them; we were shoo-ins for the Grand Slam."

A world-class wing-forward, Fergus missed out on the professional era and European Cup rugby, but has no regrets. "It's a totally different game," he asserts. "The benefit nowadays is financial, it's a job. The big thing we got was the friendship, and I don't think the professional game can give you that, or to the same extent. The present-day players are under more pressure and the commitment is greater. However, there are advantages. The game is now 98pc clean, whereas in our day sometimes it was only 2pc clean. It could be brutal.

"I remember playing Canterbury on the Lions tour in 1971, and the referee just abdicated responsibility. In those days referees were local refs so, for instance, in two games we played in Australia, the penalty count against us was 36 to six."

Fergus weighed 15-4, so by today's standards, he would be at a disadvantage, but he has his own take on that. "When Ireland played England in 1955, of the four second rows, three were 15 stone and the second Englishman was 15-and-a-half, while the lightest of the back rows was 11-and-a-half stone. The difference in men in our day was at least one stone and today it's probably another stone or two. I think many have got too big."

He also had the pleasure of beating the All Blacks with the Barbarians. Of the famous try from that game, he said: "I made the tackle which led to them kicking the ball away, and I could have got the ball passed to me, but it became a very Welsh try, especially the closer it got to the line!"

Fergus, who is in the property investment business, did commentary for BBC NI with Jim Neilly, and sometimes with Cliff Morgan and Bill McLaren, until 1999.

Irish Independent

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