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Kevin Mays Remembers The Team That ‘Turned Up’

Dick Milliken and Kevin Mays 14/3/2023

1973 Ireland Rugby Team Visits The Irish Embassy in London 14/3/2023 Dick Milliken and Kevin Mays Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous Ireland v England game that took place against the backdrop of a heated political situation.

Ireland won 18-9 on the day but the England team received a rapturous welcome at Lansdowne Road and the post-match speech from England captain John Pullin have been immortalised,

‘We may not be very good but at least we turn up

Today members of both teams and delegates from the IRFU and RFU gathered at a reception in London hosted by the Irish Embassy to mark the occasion. We spoke to Ireland second row Kevin Mays about his memories about the day.

A view of a match programme 14/3/2023

A view of a match programme from the game between Ireland and England that took place on 10th February 1973 in Lansdowne Road – Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“I think we were all aware of the political situation at the time and what had happened and the difficulties that the IRFU had in the context of Wales and Scotland deciding not to come for the reasons they articulated at that time.

1973 Reunion Photo Gallery

“My greatest memory apart from the nerves of getting ready, was when we were about to run and one of the officials put up their hand to stop us. Now at that stage in the game the last thing you want is to be stopped from getting on to the pitch because the quicker you get on you get the nerves out of the way.

“Anyway, all I could hear was this crescendo of noise coming and this continuous and rapturous applause for the English team. I was thinking, hang on a second…why are we waiting, it was interminable, applause, applause, applause.

“I remember different aspects of the game. There was Roger Uttley, Andrew Ripley, all the greats of the time. The game went very quickly as it always does. I was playing behind the late Ray McLoughlin, probably one of the greatest loose heads to play for Ireland. He had told me just before the game, ‘Kevin, just make sure you run around with your chin close to your chest, in case someone hits you in the throat’. And, having run around like that for the first few minutes and I couldn’t see anything, I thought this maybe wasn’t the best idea.

Kevin Mays and Feidlim MacLoughlin 14/3/2023

1973 Ireland Rugby Team Visits The Irish Embassy in London 14/3/2023 – Kevin Mays and Feidlim MacLoughlin Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“I remember McGann’s drop goal and I remember Tom Grace having a few quiet words with the late great David Duckham, which probably wouldn’t pass for complimentary these days, but it was all in the cut and thrust. The other thing I remember is getting a bad knock and I was on the ground and Andy Ripley put out his hand to help me. For those who don’t know who he was, he was the epitome of the brilliant athlete and a lovely man, and he subsequently spent many happy days in Ireland after the game.

“At the end of the game there was much thanks and a great appreciation and understanding of what the English team had done. At the dinner afterwards, there were the immortal words that everyone remembers from John Pullin. He stood up and said it and there was a standing ovation and it was absolutely fantastic.

“That evening in particular stands out, I used to drive a little green mini and we went to Hartigans for a number of refreshments before the dinner and I ended up bringing five of the English team down from Hartigans to the Shelbourne for the dinner. Now my mini had a sun roof and Andy Ripley was sticking out of the top of that, but we made it on time.

“I think the emotion of today is really fantastic, it’s a marvellous idea and it gives us an opportunity to meet some of the guys and to remember the feelings from that day and the great appreciation we had for the English team.

“I’d like to thank the IRFU and the Irish Embassy here in London and all the organisers for arranging this reunion.”