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Flashback To 2002 – The Last Ireland Team To Play At The London Sevens

Flashback To 2002 – The Last Ireland Team To Play At The London Sevens

It has been 16 years since an Ireland Men’s Sevens team has competed at the London Sevens. It was May 2002 when a group of players who would have been more familiar with the 15-a-side version of the game were brought together to compete at the tournament under Denis McBride and Kurt McQuilkin.

Ireland did not fair too well at the 2002 tournament, winning just one of their five games – a 19-12 victory over France. Men’s Sevens faded away in Ireland until 2015 when a new IRFU Programme was established by David Nucifora and Anthony Eddy, and since then the side have risen from the bottom tournament in Europe to finishing second overall in last season’s Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series.

Eddy’s men fell agonisingly short at the World Series qualifier in Hong Kong in April, but bounced back to win the first leg of this season’s Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series in Moscow a few weeks ago.

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They are competing as the invitational team at the London Sevens this weekend, as well as at the Paris Sevens next week. Along with the Ireland Women, they have qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens this July in San Francisco, while there are three stages left on the Rugby Europe Grand Prix Series between now and September.

Ahead of the current Ireland Men’s squad running out at Twickenham today, we take a look at the players who wore the green jersey at the home of English Rugby back in 2002, and where they are now:

David Quinlan (Captain)

Quinlan, who was part of the successful Ireland School side that toured Australia in 1996, played centre in the 15s game. He won 48 caps for Leinster before moving across the water to play 35 times for Northampton Saints. He won two senior Ireland caps on the summer tour to Japan in 2005. Injury forced his retirement in 2007 and he now works in the area of Sports Law.

Aidan McCullen

Hailing from Co. Meath and schooled at Castleknock College, McCullen spent a year in France with Dax when he was 19, before going on to win 57 caps for Leinster, scoring six tries. Playing in the back row, he was also was capped by Ireland at senior level against Samoa in 2003. He went on to play with Toulouse and London Irish in a playing career that lasted over 10 years. He now works with in the areas of innovation and marketing as well as broadcasting.

Aidan Kearney

Dubliner Kearney played provincially with both Ulster and Leinster, winning 26 caps and scoring 12 tries for his native province. He played a number of games for the Ireland Development side against the likes of Argentina and Samoa. Kearney had a lengthy career in the All-Ireland League, playing with Dungannon, Clontarf and Suttonians. He also coached with Suttonians, Dublin University and Dublin City University. Aidan is currently Rugby Operations Officer with the IRFU.

Paul Neville

Back rower Neville had a successful career in the All-Ireland League with Garryowen, Captaining the Limerick side to the two league titles in 2012 and 2007 (a year in which they also famously won the All-Ireland Cup and the Munster Senior Cup). He also had a stint as a pro with Connacht and is currently coaching with Garryowen. His sister Joy won 70 caps for the Ireland Women’s team, as well as representing her country in the Sevens code. She is a current professional referee with the IRFU and was awarded the World Rugby Referee of the Year honour in 2017.

Kieran Campbell

Campbell began his career at London Irish before moving to Ulster, for whom he would make 100 appearances. During that time he made three appearances for Ireland in 2005 – twice against Japan on the summer tour and once against Romania during the November Test series. He finished his playing career in Connacht, retiring in 2010 and went on to develop a career in coaching. Campbell is currently the Ulster Rugby Academy Manager and was an assistant coach with the Ireland Under-20s at last summer’s World Rugby U-20 Championship in Georgia.

James Ferris

Ferris played scrum half in both Newbridge College and at Naas RFC, and along with his good friend Geordan Murphy moved to England to play with Leicester Tigers while still in his teens. Ferris returned home after a few years with Leicester and played with Connacht in the 2000/01 season and also lined out in the All-Ireland League with Blackrock College. Ferris now works in Asset Management.

Paddy Wallace

Wallace went on to have a playing career spanning 14 years and retired as Ulster’s most-capped player (at the time) with 189 caps. He won 30 Ireland caps, scoring 53 points and his honours include three Triple Crowns and a Grand Slam in the Six Nations, as well as playing at two Rugby World Cups in 2007 and 2011. With Ulster he won the Celtic League in 2006 and was a runner-up in the 2012 Heineken Cup. Wallace has since worked in media and as a Business Development Manager, as well as being co-founder of the Paddy Wallace Fund for Autism.

Brendan Burke

Burke played his club rugby in Ireland with Barnhall and made 31 appearances for Leinster, between 2001 and 2006. The back-three speedster continued his playing career in England, having stints with Rotherham, Bedford Blues and Ampthill and is now a player-coach with Coventry RFC.

John McWeeney

A stalwart of St. Mary’s College RFC, McWeeney famously lined out for Ireland against New Zealand in Lansdowne Road in 1997, with Jeff Wilson his opposing winger. While that was his solitary Ireland cap, the powerful runner made 66 appearances for Leinster, scoring 22 tries. Upon his retirement, McWeeney went into the area of financial services and he now works with a global bank.

Cormac Dowling

Dowling was part of the successful Ireland Schools team that toured Australia in 1996, a side that included the likes of Peter Stringer, Leo Cullen and the aforementioned David Quinlan. Forced to retire due to knee injuries, Dowling was touted as one for the future and was often mentioned alongside Brian O’Driscoll as someone who could have had a bright career at senior level.

IRELAND MEN’S SEVENS Squad (2002 London Sevens, Twickenham, May 24-25, 2002):

David Quinlan (Blackrock College) (capt)
Aidan McCullen (Lansdowne)
Aidan Kearney (Dungannon)
Paul Neville (Garryowen)
Kieran Campbell (Dungannon)
James Ferris (Blackrock College)
Paddy Wallace (Ballymena)
Brendan Burke (Barnhall)
John McWeeney (St. Mary’s College)
Cormac Dowling (St. Mary’s College, London)

Coach: Denis McBride
Manager: Kurt McQuilkin
Physio: John Martin


Ireland 5 Argentina 19
Ireland 12 South Africa 21
Ireland 19 France 15
Ireland 15 Russia 19
Ireland 7 Georgia 12