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Ireland Under-19s Reunite 20 Years On From World Championship Success

Ireland Under-19s Reunite 20 Years On From World Championship Success

A reunion event was held at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday to mark 20 years since the Ireland Under-19s won the FIRA World Youths Championship in France. For some the 1998 tournament marked the pinnacle of their rugby careers, for others it was a stepping stone on the way to senior international honours.

The get-together at the GUINNESS Series match between Ireland and Argentina brought together Declan Kidney’s band of brothers from 1998, who famously included future senior internationals Brian O’Driscoll, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paddy Wallace and Kieran Campbell.

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Captained by UCD centre Shane Moore, the Ireland Under-19 squad also included a number of players who went on to have distinguished club and provincial careers, with some still heavily involved in the game like IRFU rugby operations officer Aidan Kearney, Adrian Flavin, MU Barnhall technical director and Castleknock director of rugby, and of course Campbell, who heads up the Ulster Rugby Academy.

In their opening game back in April 1998 they hammered the USA 47-13 and followed this up with a 17-all draw against South Africa. Ireland lost the subsequent penalty shootout, but the young Springboks were then disqualified for fielding an ineligible player.

In the semi-final Ireland beat Argentina 18-3 to take their place in the final, and in the Championship decider they got the better of hosts France with winger Darragh Holt’s late try sealing a memorable 18-0 victory in Toulouse. The squad were coached by Kidney, who took up his Munster head coach role after the tournament, and Galwegians’ Bart Fannin, with Harry McKibbin the team manager.

Speaking after the final, McKibbin said: “It may seem funny to say so at this stage but we were never really in trouble. This was a typically Irish performance in that we never let up the pressure and we never handed the initiative over to the French. Truly this was a magnificent display by all our players.”

The travelling party also included Bill Mulcahy as team doctor, physiotherapists Mary Costello and Maeve Mitchell, then-senior international Kurt McQuilkin as a technical assistant, and IRFU referee David Tyndall. The driving force behind Ireland’s involvement in the tournament, for only the second year, was the then-IRFU director of rugby development, Ray Southam.

McQuilkin said at the time: “Paddy Wallace scored our first try after eight minutes and it was holy hell and good night nurse for the French after that. The pressure they were under was incredible and you could see it in their eyes. Sheer fear.”

O’Driscoll took to social media to dub the 20-year reunion ‘a great day’. “Less hair, some bigger clothes but the same laughs and abuse hurled at one another,” he quipped. Like all present, Flavin thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with his old team-mates, saying they were ‘great times with great lads’.

Kearney said that ‘twenty years on and the bond is still as strong as ever’. Friendships that strengthened on the pitch and at the dinner table in France where the Ireland U-19 management insisted that no player could sit beside someone from his own province.

They were heady times for Irish underage and student rugby with Triple Crown success in 1998 for both the Ireland Under-21s, who had Ronan O’Gara, Leo Cullen and David Wallace among their starters, and Irish Universities, while the Ireland Schools side – including Gordon D’Arcy, Andy Dunne and Paul O’Connell – were narrowly denied a Triple Crown by England.

IRELAND UNDER-19 Squad (1998 FIRA World Youths Championship):

Backs: Kieran Campbell (London Irish), Aidan Considine (Bective Rangers), Matthew Cupitt (Instonians), Darragh Holt (UCC), David Mescal (Ballina/UCG), Shane Moore (UCD) (capt), Barry McCracken (CIYMS), Brian O’Driscoll (UCD), John Reynolds (Watsonians), Brendan Ronan (CBC Cork), Donovan Rossi (Clontarf), Paddy Wallace (Campbell College).

Forwards: Damien Broughall (UCD), Brian Cahill (UCC), Neil Coughlan (UCD), Conor Fitzgerald (Garryowen), Adrian Flavin (London Irish), Aidan Kearney (St. Michael’s College), Chris McCarey (Ballymena), Andy O’Brien (UCD), Donncha O’Callaghan (Cork Constitution), Frank Roche (Bohemians), Chris Schofield (Bangor), Joey Sheahan (PBC Cork), Ben Urquhart (Methodist College), Chris Good (RBAI).


Ireland Under-19s 47 USA Under-19s 13, Samatan
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Ben Urquhart, Damien Broughall, Chris McCarey 2, Paddy Wallace, Aidan Kearney, Chris Good, Donovan Rossi; Cons: Donovan Rossi 2; Pen: Donovan Rossi

Ireland Under-19s 17 South Africa Under-19s 17, Lombez
Scorers: Ireland: Paddy Wallace, Chris McCarey; Cons: Brian O’Driscoll 2; Pen: Brian O’Driscoll

Argentina Under-19s 3 Ireland Under-19s 18, Colomiers
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Kieran Campbell, Neil Coughlan; Con: Brian O’Driscoll; Pens: Brian O’Driscoll 2

France Under-19s 0 Ireland Under-19s 18, Toulouse
Scorers: Ireland: Tries: Paddy Wallace, Darragh Holt; Con: Brian O’Driscoll; Pen: Brian O’Driscoll; Drop: Paddy Wallace