LineoutCoach is 1 year old today and this is the story behind the picture that started it all….
This picture is significant to me in more ways than one. It played a leading role in the name and design of LineoutCoach. The picture is taken from Ireland V England, Lansdowne Road, 1971. The player jumping for the ball at the tail of the lineout, wearing the head guard is Denis J Hickie, my father.
My Dad showed me this picture many years ago and it has always struck a chord with me. This picture sparked my obsession with rugby set pieces. Set piece plays are all about tactics and technique. I find this fascinating! I was informed that “the lineout was a place that sorted the men from the boys”. When you look at this picture of a lineout from 40 years ago, it is very apparent how much rugby has evolved over those decades. The same principles of calling the lineout play to a specific area applied then as it does now but really that is were the similarities end. Lifting players in lineouts was introduced in the early 1980s and this transformed lineout tactical play. Every jumper in the lineout was under immense pressure from the opposition who were usually standing on your feet or wading in with elbows and punches! As my father often reminds me, “When men were men”!
|15||Barry O’Driscoll||15||Bob Hiller|
|14||Alan Duggan||14||Jeremy Janion|
|13||Barry Bresnihan||13||John Spencer (c)|
|12||Mike Gibson (c)||12||Christopher Wardlow|
|11||Edwin Grant||11||David Duckham|
|10||Barry McGann||10||Ian Wright|
|9||Roger Young||9||Jacko Page|
|1||Ray McLoughlin||1||Piggy Powell|
|2||Ken Kennedy||2||John Pullin|
|3||Sean Lynch||3||Keith Fairbrother|
|4||Willie-John McBride||4||Nigel Horton|
|5||Mick Molloy||5||Peter Larter|
|6||Michael Hipwell||6||Tony Bucknall|
|7||Fergus Slattery||7||Tony Neary|
|8||Denis Hickie||8||Ronald Hannaford|
|16||A. Jackson||16||John Novak|
|17||Richard Milliken||17||Dick Cowman|
|18||John Moloney||18||Nigel Starmer-Smith|
|19||N.J. Dwyer||19||Fran Cotton|
|20||David Barry||20||J. Johnston|
|21||Harold Steele||21||Bob Taylor|
Ireland lost that day against England in 1971. They finished third in the 5 Nations Championship that year, behind Grand Slam Winners, Wales and second placed, France, with whom they had drawn against. It was the France game that was my Father’s first cap. Sean Lynch and Denis Hickie were both selected for Ireland for the first time against France. They were the first two players from St. Mary’s College to represent their country.
“I had been in the Irish squad since the tour to Australia in 1967 but that was the day when there were no substitutes allowed after the game kicked off,” remembers Hickie. “We had a great tour to Australia and won the test game in Sydney. If I won a cap for Ireland on the tour, I probably would have stayed. I loved it down there!”
St Mary’s College R.F.C. Irish International Rugby Players
|1970 Sean Lynch (17)||1970 Denis J. Hickie (6)|
|1972 John Moloney (27)||1972 Tom Grace (25)|
|1974 Shay Deering (8)||1977 Tom Feighery (2)|
|1978 Tony Ward (19)||1978 Terry Kennedy (14)|
|1979 Ciaran Fitzgerald (26)||1979 Rodney O’Donnell (5)|
|1981 Paul Dean (32)||1988 Vincent Cunningham (16)|
|1996 Victor Costello (39)||1997 Denis A. Hickie (62)|
|1997 Conor McGuinness (14)||1997 Kevin Nowlan (3)|
|1997 John McWeeney (1)||1997 Malcolm O’Kelly (92)|
|1998 Trevor Brennan (10)||2000 Peter McKenna (1)|
|2001 Emmet Byrne (9)||2002 Keith Gleeson (27)|
|2003 Mark McHugh (1)||2005 Kieran Lewis (3)|
|2007 Shane Jennings (12)||2009 Jonathan Sexton (24)|
|2009 Kevin McLaughlin (2)||2010 Rhys Ruddock (1)|
“My first cap for Ireland was against France in Lansdowne Road in 1971. In the week leading up to the international game, myself and Mick Hipwell were pitted against each other all week. In the end, we were both selected. I remember getting a phone call from Irish winger, Alan Duggan, telling me that I was in the starting side. I put it down to my performance a week earlier for Leinster Rugby against Connacht at the Sportsground in Galway. It was a horrendous day and the rain lashed down but I managed to have a very good game. The following week, I was starting against France and I was delighted”.
Ireland drew 9-9 with France in Lansdowne Road in 1971. The only try of the game was scored by Irish winger, Eddie Grant. It is worth bearing in mind that tries worth only worth 3 points in those days and the Irish President at the time was Eamon DeValera. “I don’t remember much about meeting the President or any of the pre match routines. All I could think about was getting into the game” says Hickie.
Wales v Ireland 1971
It was the year after this picture was taken, in the 1972 5 Nations Championship that questions remain. Could Ireland have won the Grand Slam? Sadly, we will never know as the 5 Nations Championship was never completed. Ireland went to Stade Olympique de Colombes in Paris to play the French. The stadium hosted the 1924 Paris Olympics, the last year rugby was played in the Olympics and USA were crowned Champions. The stadium also hosted the 1938 Football World Cup between Italy and Hungary.
“It was a fantastic venue” enthuses my Father. “The atmosphere was incredible and I remember walking up the steps from the changing room and out onto the pitch. It was just electric”. Ireland were victors on that glorious day in Paris in 1972. The first time France had been beaten by Ireland in Stade Colombes in decades. It must have been a very special feeling for those Irish players that day and the last time Ireland played France in Stade Colombes.
“It one of those special memories that you simply don’t forget”.
France v Ireland 1972 clash in the Five Nations
Ireland’s next game of the Championship was against England in Twickenham, on February 12th 1972. “I remember an uneasy atmosphere in Twickenham. There was a noticeable increase in the numbers of police and security, following the awful events of Bloody Sunday” Dad tells me. “An Irish fan ran up to me and grabbed me just before the game. He shouted, how the hell could I play against the English? It is a moment that sticks out for me”. Such was the political unrest and troubled times.
Ireland famously went on to beat England in Twickenham that day. The Irish rugby team had gone to France and England and had won both games. They faced Scotland and Wales in Dublin. “Undoubtedly, Wales would have been the real test. They were an incredible side”. Unfortunately, following an attack on the British embassy in Dublin, Wales and Scotland refused to travel to Dublin for the 5 Nations Championship. “I think we could have won the Grand Slam” says Dad. “We had a very good team with one of the best front rows in European rugby in Ken Kennedy, Ray McLaughlin and Sean Lynch.”
Dad has bittersweet memories of that famous victory against England in 1972. “It was just fantastic to go to Twickenham and come away with a victory. That game unfortunately was my last international game for Ireland. I was selected for the next Irish game but I got a very bad knee injury while playing for St. Mary’s that effectively ended my serious rugby but I was never dropped from Ireland”!
As with all rugby players, the injuries mount up. It is almost a year ago that Dad underwent surgery to replace that knee. It has been troublesome ever since he received the knee injury. The past year and litany of old rugby injuries has been challenging to deal with at times. Asked if he would go back and change any of it to avoid the injuries, I always get the same reply from my Dad – “Never”!!
The outcome of the 1972 5 Nations Championship will forever remain incomplete. That is what history has dictated.
A year on, I still look at this picture with intrigue. It is so much more than just a picture to me but a snapshot in time. It is a brief look back at a politically tense period in Irish history. It is a snapshot of Irish rugby and all it’s growth and success. More importantly to me, it is a snapshot of an athlete who never settled for second. A player whose drive and determination ensured that he represented his country and pulled on that green jersey of Ireland.
With the creation of LineoutCoach – the picture continues to inspire…
Gavin Hickie, The LineoutCoach, is a former Ireland, Leinster and Leicester rugby player now based in California and taking rugby to the USA. He writes for RugbyMag.com and other publications when not coaching for Belmont Shore and blogging on lineoutcoach.com