Niamh Briggs is the most recent Irish rugby player to feature on a stamp and she is in good company. Paul O’Connell featured on a stamp in 2007, while several other players have been immortalised over the years.
The first Ireland internationals to appear on postal stamps were Barry McGann, Colin Grimshaw and Donal Canniffe. On September 2, 1974, he Irish Post Office issued a set of two stamps commemorating the Centenary of the IRFU.
The two stamps were based on an Irish Press picture taken by photographer Austin Finn during a Combined Universities v Rest of Ireland match.
McGann won 25 caps between 1969 and 1976. Grimshaw played as a replacement for Roger Young against England in 1969.
He created a bit of history that day in that it was the first time that two Irish players from the same club and province – and featuring in the same position – played in the same game.
Canniffe won two Ireland caps in 1976 and was the Munster captain the day they beat the All Blacks in 1978.
The next Ireland international was the late Ernie Crawford. He was depicted on one of a set of five rugby stamps issued by the Tongan Postal Authority on August 2, 1989.
The issue was to commemorate the National Sports stadium inauguration and the South Pacific mini games that month.
Crawford won 30 caps between 1920 and 1927 and captained the Ireland team on 15 occasions during that time. He also served as IRFU President in the 1957/58 season.
1995 Rugby World Cup
Three Irish players can be identified in the An Post 1995 Rugby World Cup set issued on April 6, 1995.
The two stamps were based on Irish, English and Australian players.
The 52p stamp was based on a photograph taken during the Ireland v Australia game in 1992.
Brian Robinson and John (Spud) Murphy, the Greystones hooker, are clearly identifiable on this stamp.
Denis McBride would appear to be the principle Irish player featured on the 32p stamp.
Murphy played his only game against Australia in 1992.
Robinson won 25 caps between 1991 and 1994 and McBride won 33 caps between 1988 and 1997
The Rugby Heartlands of Tadjikistan and Turkmenistan
The eight & ninth Irish players to appear on stamps were Phillip Matthews and Steve Smith. The stamps were issued for collectors but never actually used as postage stamps.
They are depicted on two stamps in a set of nine issued by Tadjikistan for the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
Matthews is seen tackling Michael Lynagh on a stamp based on a photo taken during an Australia v Ireland game.
Smith appears in a Lions front row based on a photograph taken during the 1989 tour to Australia. Matthews won 37 caps between 1988 and 1992 and captained the Irish team on 17 occasions. Smith won 25 Ireland caps between 1988 and 1993. He also toured with the 1989 Lions to Australia.
Matthews appears for the second time, on one of the nine rugby stamps issued by the Republic of Turkmenistan during 2000.
The stamp is based on a photograph taken during the Ireland v Australia World Cup game in 1991.
Neil Francis is also clearly visible along with an unidentified Irish player tackling Peter Slattery.
Francis won 36 caps between 1987 and 1996.
The stamps were issued for collectors but never used as actual postage stamps.
Angel of Mercy
Dr. Tom Crean VC, DSO was commemorated on a stamp to mark the medical heroes of the Boer War, entitled ‘Angels of Mercy’. The stamps were issued in August 2001.
Dr Tommy Crean won nine Ireland caps (1894 to 1896), was on Ireland’s Triple Crown-winning team of 1894 and toured South Africa with the 1896 Lions, playing in all four Tests and captaining them twice.
He was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Boer War and the DSO during World War 1.
2007: Paul O’Connell
In 2007 An Post issued two stamps featuring Ireland’s talismanic second row Paul O’Connell.
The iconic image of O’Connell soaring for a lineout ball in the game against England at Croke Park also featured his Munster and Ireland team-mates, John Hayes and Donncha O’Callaghan, as they help him to scale the heights.
The second stamp is a close up of Paul on the charge – an iconic sight in Irish rugby at any time and wonderfully captured here for rugby fans and stamp collectors alike.
This article and the imagery appear by kind permission of Mr. Willow Murray.