Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan is not the only Irishman amongst the record 26-strong British and Irish Lions management panel heading to New Zealand on Wednesday. We profile those involved.
Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan is not the only Irishman amongst the record 26-strong British and Irish Lions management panel heading to New Zealand on Wednesday.
Coach: Eddie O’Sullivan
Born: Youghal, Co. Cork, November 21, 1958
Playing: Position: Wing/Fly-half
Country: Ireland ‘B’ (1 cap)
Coaching: Club/Province: Blackrock College/Buccaneers RFC/ Connacht
National Teams: Ireland Under-21s Coach (1995-97), US Eagles Assistant Coach and National Technical Director USA Rugby (1997-99 (post RWC 99), Ireland Assistant Coach (1999), Ireland Head Coach (2001-present).
Record: Ireland: 2004 Triple Crown Winners, RBS Six Nations
Lions: 2004: Appointed Lions Coach, New Zealand Tour 2005
* Eddie O’Sullivan, having succeeded Warren Gatland as Ireland coach, has helped the men-in-green to 28 wins from 41 since his debut 54-10 defeat of Wales in February 2002, a World Cup quarter-final in 2003, and a Triple Crown – a first in 19 years – in 2004.
Not only that but there have been back-to-back defeats of World champions England in 2004 and 2005 and an autumn Test clean sweep against South Africa, the US Eagles and Argentina last year.
The Springbok success – 17-12 – marked only Ireland’s second victory over South Africa in 17 meetings.
Contracted to coach Ireland through to the 2008 Six Nations, O’Sullivan began his coaching career with Blackrock College in Dublin.
He then his reputation with Buccaneers, and with Connacht, before taking to the helm of the Ireland Under-21s.
He subsequently spent two years as technical director and assistant coach of the US Eagles before returning home after the 1999 Rugby World Cup and becoming assistant to Warren Gatland, whom he succeeded.
Now faced with the task of aiding the 2005 Lions’ assault on a first Test series win on New Zealand soil since 1974, O’Sullivan will be doubly determined to succeed.
Just as he will when he takes up the Ireland reins again, following the disappointing Six Nations losses to France and Wales, for the autumn Test series ties against New Zealand, Australia and Romania next November.
The Corkman was named as Philips Manager of the Year last year – becoming the first Irish rugby coach since the late Mick Doyle to collect the award.
Specialist Advisor: David McHugh
Born: Limerick, December 21, 1955
Playing: Position: Scrum-half
Clubs: Aer Lingus/Highfield/Ballincollig
Education: St Munchin’s College, Limerick
Current Position: IRFU Referee Development Officer
Started Refereeing: 1981
First Test: Romania v Wales, September 17, 1994
* Having hung up his referee’s whistle after the 2004 Six Nations, David McHugh is likely to be a vital cog in the armoury of Sir Clive Woodward’s back-up staff.
The Cork dweller will offer the Lions specialist advice on the laws of the game throughout the tour. He should know, he refereed took charge of 29 Tests, including the 1996 and 2001 Heineken Cup finals, between 1994 and 2004.
McHugh operated as a scrum-half in his younger days with Aer Lingus, Highfield and Ballincollig. He made his World Cup refereeing debut in 1995 when he took charge of South Africa’s 20-0 defeat of Canada in Port Elizabeth. He also officiated at 1999 World Cup, and along with Ireland’s other representative Alain Rolland, whistled at the 2003 tournament in Australia.
He also famously sustained a dislocated shoulder when refereeing the Tri-Nations match between South Africa and New Zealand on August 10, 2002.
He was assaulted at Durban’s ABSA Stadium shortly after half-time, when a Springbrok fan Pieter Van Zyl ran onto the pitch and tackled McHugh to the ground. Van Zyl was later convicted of assault.
Doctor: Dr. Gary O’Driscoll
Born: Manchester, England, October 7, 1969
Playing: Position: Scrum-half
Clubs: Exiles Under-21s/Students
* Dr. Gary O’Driscoll, a mainstay of the Irish set-up over the past three seasons, is a former Exiles Under-21/Students XV scrum-half.
The 35-year-old qualified as a Doctor from London’s Imperial University College, and became involved with the London Irish team in 1997.
Two years later, he became the Ireland Under-21 Doctor, looking after them on three Under-21 World Cup trips to South Africa (2000), Australia (2001) and England (2002). He then moved over to the senior team Irish team in 2002, and toured Australia with the Irish team during the World Cup, the following year.
A second cousin of Ireland and Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll, Gary is also a practicing GP in the city of his birth, Manchester.
Chief Executive: John Feehan
Born: Dublin, February 6, 1963
Playing: Position: Prop
Clubs: Trinity/Old Wesley/Leinster; Irish Universities
* Dubliner John Feehan, 42, played as a tight-head prop for various teams including Trinity College, Old Wesley and Leinster, and for the Irish Universities.
Feehan worked in sales and marketing with a variety of multinationals including Unilever, Scottish & Newcastle and the Oakhill Group, establishing a solid business-based background.
He was appointed as Commercial Director in April 2002 to the British & Irish Lions and 6 Nations, before becoming CEO in February 2003.