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Irish Rugby Heroes Of Yore Grace YouTube

Irish Rugby Heroes Of Yore Grace YouTube

On this very day 55 years ago – April 18, 1959 – an Ireland team containing the likes of Syd Millar, Noel Murphy, Ronnie Dawson and Tony O’Reilly lined out for Ireland against France at a packed Lansdowne Road.

And thanks to newsreel archive British Pathé, who has uploaded its entire collection of 85,000 historic films, in high resolution, to its YouTube channel, you can watch footage of that very game from 1959.

Modern day rugby fans can now view some of the amateur era’s greatest players with British Pathé reports of Ireland teams from the 1920s through to the late 1960s.

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There are short clips too of old Irish club and interprovincial games as well as the famous Probables v Possibles selection duels.

The nostalgic films will no doubt bring back great memories for those who were playing at the time or in attendance as supporters, while offering a fascinating glimpse of just how different the sport was back then – from playing styles and set pieces down to the attire of the players and Lansdowne Road itself.

Family members will also be interested to delve into this online archive, as they watch their fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers, etc. wearing the famous green jersey – in black and white!

The family link even crops up in the match from April 18, 1959 when Ireland ran out 9-5 winners over France at Lansdowne Road. The French, courtesy of two wins and a draw, still won the Championship with Ireland finishing second.

The late Gordon Wood was Ireland’s loosehead prop that day. Of course, Gordon’s son Keith went on to play for and captain his country with distinction as well as representing the Lions like his father did.

‘Woody’ was present at Templeville Road yesterday to witness the next generation of this talented rugby family, cheering on his nephew, back rower Ben Kilkenny, as the Ireland Under-19s defeated France 31-20.

Gordon’s profile in the 1959 match programme reads: “Born in Limerick, 20/6/1931. 15st 9lbs. 5ft 10½in. Educated at Crescent College Limerick. Benjamin Gordon Malison Wood is an Insurance inspector for Co. Limerick. Gordon was first capped in 1954. He captained Garryowen in 1954-55, 1957-58 and again this season.

“Captain of Munster last season, Gordon Wood has been in all Irish international trials since 1954. With (Syd) Millar, (Ray) Prosser and (Hugh) McLeod he goes on the coming ‘Lions’ tour as a prop forward. His nineteenth cap for Ireland today.”

The Ireland players that lined out that day 55 years ago, and the clubs they represented, were:

15. Noel Henderson (North of Ireland FC)
14. Tony O’Reilly (Leicester and Old Belvedere)
13. Kevin Flynn (Wanderers)
12. Dave Hewitt (Queen’s University)
11. Niall Brophy (UCD)
10. Michael English (Bohemians)
9. Andy Mulligan (London Irish)
1. Gordon Wood (Garryowen)
2. Ronnie Dawson (Wanderers) (capt)
3. Syd Millar (Ballymena)
4. Bill Mulcahy (UCD)
5. Gerry Culliton (Wanderers)
6. Noel Murphy (Cork Constitution)
7. Tony O’Sullivan (Galwegians)
8. Ronnie Kavanagh (Wanderers)

It was the 31st international match between the countries, with Ireland coming into the game with 18 previous wins and France 11, while there was one draw.

Kevin Flynn made his international debut in the centre alongside Dave Hewitt, who kicked a fantastic long range penalty on the day.

Ireland’s try was scored in the first half by winger Niall Brophy and out-half Mick ‘the Kick’ English landed the first of his three international drop goals.

There was a nice note in the programme about full-back Noel Henderson, dubbed ‘the quiet Derry man who has given Ireland such noble service’.

Henderson’s 40th and final cap – he was capped over a ten-year period – put him fourth on the all-time international list behind Jack Kyle (46 caps), Wales’ Ken Jones (44) and George Stephenson (42). “A formidable feat, but a fair measure of his contribution to Irish rugby,” it was said.

Hooker Ronnie Dawson went on to captain the Lions that very year, leading them to two Test wins over Australia but they lost their series with New Zealand 3-1.

Famously, winger Tony O’Reilly posted a Lions tour record of 22 tries while Down Under and other Irish members of that 1959 tour squad included Gordon Wood, Hewitt, Brophy, English, Andy Mulligan, Syd Millar, Bill Mulcahy and Noel Murphy.

Alastair White, General Manager of British Pathé, commented: “Our hope is that everyone, everywhere who has a computer will see these films and enjoy them.

“This archive is a treasure trove unrivalled in historical and cultural significance that should never be forgotten. Uploading the films to YouTube seemed like the best way to make sure of that.”

For more Irish rugby-related clips from British Pathé, please click here.