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Sir Anthony O’Reilly – Rest In Peace

Sir Anthony O'Reilly 12/8/2001

Sir Anthony O'Reilly Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

It is with great sadness that the IRFU learned of the passing of former Ireland international wing Sir Anthony (Tony) O’Reilly on Saturday after a short illness.

Educated in Belvedere College SJ and then University College Dublin, the Dubliner featured for Old Belvedere RFC alongside his close friend and former Grand Slam winning captain Dr. Karl Mullen and his home province Leinster as well as London Irish RFC.

At international level he won the first of his 29 caps in 1955 and would go on to score 12 tries in total across a 15 year Five Nations career, a record shared with fellow Ireland great Mike Gibson.

He made his senior international debut, aged just 18, against France on 22 January 1955. He scored his four tries for Ireland against France on 28 January 1956; against Scotland on 25 February 1956; against Wales in 1959; and against France in 1963. He made his final appearance for Ireland on 14 February 1970, after a six-year absence from the national team, against England.

O’Reilly toured twice with the British and Irish Lions, on their 1955 tour to South Africa and their 1959 tour to Australia and New Zealand. He made his debut for the Lions on 26 June 1955, scoring two tries against a Northern Universities XV. He played 15 games during the 1955 tour, scoring 16 tries.

This included hat-tricks against a North Eastern Districts XV on 20 July and Transvaal on 23 July. He also played in all four Tests against South Africa, making his Test debut on the right wing before a crowd of 95,000 at Ellis Park on 6 August. He scored a try in the Lions 23–22 victory and scored another in the fourth Test on 24 September.

On the 1959 tour, he played a further 23 games and scored 22 tries. This included a hat-trick against King Country/Counties on 19 August. He played in all six tests, two against Australia and four against New Zealand. He scored tries in the two test wins against Australia and in the first and fourth tests against New Zealand. His total of 38 tries for the Lions on two tours remains a record.

He also scored 38 tries in 30 appearances for the Barbarians between 1955 and 1963.

An influential figure in the fields of sport, business, philanthropy and media, his influence and legacy transcends his many achievements on the rugby field.

He is predeceased by his wife Lady Chryss O’Reilly.

Our condolences to his family and many friends at this sad time.