The death has occurred of Michael O’Flanagan, one of the last surviving members of Ireland’s 1948 Grand Slam winning squad. Aged 92, the Dublin-born former winger and centre passed away at St. Vincent’s University Hospital on Saturday.
O’FLANAGAN, Michael – Donnybrook and member of the 1948 Rugby Grand Slam team. At St Vincent’s University Hospital. Michael will be greatly missed by his loving wife Carine (O’Grady), his brother Charlie and extended family Una and Deirdre O’Flanagan, Alan and Kathleen O’Grady, Elizabeth and Patrick Larkin and his nieces and nephews. Predeceased by his brothers Kevin and Sean, and his sister Trixie.
Removal on Tuesday to the Church of the Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, arriving at 9.50am for 10am Funeral Mass, followed by burial at Deans Grange Cemetery. Family flowers only.
Arguably the two most gifted siblings in Irish sport, brothers Michael and Kevin O’Flanagan hold the unique distinction of being the only two men to win caps for Ireland in rugby union and the Republic of Ireland in soccer.
Michael, who was born in Dublin on September 29, 1922 and educated at the Christian Brothers School in Synge Street, played his rugby with Lansdowne from 1943 and won the Leinster Senior Cup with the club in 1949. A year previously, he gained his one and only Ireland cap in the 6-0 Five Nations win over Scotland at Lansdowne Road (team photo below).
A great all-round athlete who worked as a publican (he owned a pub on Marlborough Street), Michael was preferred to Garryowen’s Paddy Reid at inside centre for the Scotland match, combining in midfield with the equally quick Des McKee from NIFC. O’Flanagan’s profile in the match programme from February 28, 1948 read:
‘…has set a family sporting record by emulating his elder brother, Kevin, in gaining both soccer and rugby caps. Like McKee, has only recently gone from the wing to the centre where he has been an outstanding success. A fast and clever runner, he is also a sound tackler and the only new cap in the side.’
Michael’s rugby-playing career ran in tandem with his soccer exploits with Dublin club Bohemians – he played in three FAI Cup finals – and he memorably lined out for the Republic of Ireland against England, at Dalymount Park in 1946, alongside his brother Kevin whose one Ireland rugby cap came against Australia in December 1947. Michael is pictured below with former Ireland captain Karl Mullan at a Grand Slam get-together in 2005.
A terrific extract from Peter Byrne’s book, ‘From The Press Box: Seventy Years of Great Moments in Irish Sport’, gives further insight into the type of sportsman Michael was:
‘If Michael O’Flanagan never quite made as many headlines, he was still regarded by many as the more skilful of the two brothers. Whereas Kevin relied, in the main, on his impressive pace and ability to strike the ball harder than any of his contemporaries, Michael’s game was all about ball control and the ability to outwit defenders, in size-14 boots, by sheer skill and courage.
‘And that was equally true of his rugby career, which brought him his only cap against Scotland in 1948 and a special place in history by sharing Ireland’s first ever Grand Slam.
‘Nor was that his only claim to fame in the 1947/48 season. Just three months before the Scotland rugby game, he achieved another piece of sporting history by scoring six times in Bohemians’ Leinster Senior Cup final win over St. Brendan’s, a record which still endures as testimony to the unique qualities which lit up Dalymount Park and many other venues around the country throughout the 1940s and early ’50s.’
The two O’Flanagan brothers were inducted into the Rugby Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame in 1997. Michael’s death leaves Paddy Reid and Bertie O’Hanlon as the only surviving Grand Slam winners from 1948.
The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the Irish Rugby Football Union are with Michael’s family and friends at this sad time.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.