Wednesday 17 January 2018

Barry Bresnihan

Former Munster, Ireland and Lions rugby star who became a leading expert on rheumatology, writes Marie Crowe

Barry Bresnihan, who died last week aged 66, was a former Munster, Ireland, and Lions centre. Born in Waterford, the international star was educated at Gonzaga College in Dublin before going on to UCD, where he studied medicine and played club rugby.

Bresnihan's career took off when he was first called up by Munster after a string of injuries hit their midfield.

He impressed in the red jersey and earned a place on the 'possibles' side for the Ireland trial game in January 1966.

The Ireland selectors liked what they saw and the following month he went on to win his first cap against England in the Five Nations, coming into the side as a replacement at inside centre. Ireland drew 6-6 at Twickenham and Bresnihan was on the road to a successful international career.

A few weeks later, his services were called upon again for the game against Wales at Lansdowne Road.

Bresnihan stepped up to the plate, scoring his first international try in a 9-6 victory over the Welsh and secured a permanent spot on the Irish side.

His Ireland career lasted until 1971, and during those five years he earned 25 caps and scored five tries. Bresnihan played his last game for Ireland in a Five Nations match against Wales at Cardiff, where he partnered the legendary Mike Gibson.

But Bresnihan's rugby achievements didn't stop with the national team.

On two occasions he was selected for the British and Irish Lions. His first tour was in 1966 to Australia and New Zealand when he was called up as an injury replacement.

He made 11 appearances on the tour, although he didn't feature in the Test series against the All Blacks.

Two years later, he was once again selected, for the tour to South Africa, and this time he won two Test caps, featuring in a narrow loss in Pretoria and a 6-6 draw in Port Elizabeth. Bresnihan scored two tries on that tour, against Natal early on and against North-East Districts in his final ever Lions game, 42 years ago.

In 1967, Bresnihan played his part for Munster when they became the first Irish provincial side to beat a major touring team, defeating Australia 11-8 at Musgrave Park in a famous victory.

Bresnihan played club rugby with UCD, Lansdowne and London Irish and served as UCD club president during 1993-94.

Along with his success on the rugby field, Bresnihan also excelled in his career, following his father, Con, into medicine. He completed his medical education at the University College Dublin Medical School, and with a rheumatology research fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School.

He has been published extensively, ranging from research papers to books, and has lectured at conferences and universities all over the world.

The Waterford man was a professor at St Vincent's University Hospital and was renowned internationally as a leading specialist in his field. Last September, his outstanding contribution to the treatment of rheumatology was acknowledged when he was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Irish Society for Rheumatology.

Barry Bresnihan is survived by his wife, Valerie, and daughters Niamh, Ciara and Lia, and son, Rory.

Sunday Independent

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