Football

The Only Man To Play 3 Sports In Dalymount, Lansdowne Road And Croker At Senior Level

The Only Man To Play 3 Sports In Dalymount, Lansdowne Road And Croker At Senior Level

Naturally, the factoid dates back to the time when Irish football and Irish rugby had distinct and separate homes, but only one man has played three different sports in Ireland's three 'national sports stadiums'. 

Paul McNaughton, national team manager the last time Ireland won the Grand Slam in 2009, earned 15 caps for Ireland between 1978 and 1981.

Rugby was unquestionably the sport in which he made the biggest noise. He made his international debut in the 12-9 win over Scotland in the 1978 Five Nations and played his last game for Ireland in the 19-13 defeat to France in 1981.

In between, he played both tests in the famous Australian tour of 1979, in which Tony Ward was sensationally dropped for Ollie Campbell and Ireland won two from two.

He had played club rugby since the turn of the 1970s, originally for Greystones before moving on to senior club, Wanderers. This, it should be noted, ran in tandem with his League of Ireland career with Shelbourne. Very often he would play Leinster Senior Cup rugby for Wanderers and a League of Ireland match in the same weekend.

When I left school I played everything, I mean I played club rugby for Greystones and then Wanderers - Greystones, at the time, were a junior club - and then I was playing for Shelbourne and I often played back to back matches for Wanderers on a Saturday and Shelbourne on a Sunday.

Shels, then living a nomadic existence, renting the use of both Tolka Park and Dalymount Park, sat near the foot of the table for most of the decade, occasionally scaling as high as (lower) mid-table.

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1973 was a busy year for McNaughton as he won the Leinster Senior League Cup with Wanderers, beating St. Mary's in the final. In an era before the All-Ireland League and before the provinces developed beyond a representational outfit, this was the biggest prize for club sides in the province.

And that year, he also played in the FAI Cup Final, which Shels lost to Cork Hibs after a replay in Flower Lodge.

Their poor League form notwithstanding, Shels got back to the Cup Final two years later. This latter run to the final occurred while the club were the focus of a famous documentary by RTE. McNaughton remembers one bumper weekend in that spring of '75. He played in Lansdowne Road and Dalyer on the Saturday and the Sunday respectively.

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I played in the semi-final of a Leinster Senior Cup match in 1975 and then I played in an FAI Cup Final the next day. One of them was in Lansdowne Road and the other one was obviously in Dalymount Park.

Shels were surprisingly beaten 1-0 by Home Farm in the final. McNaughton didn't play for the club beyond '75.

A month after the disappointment in Dalymount, he was in Croke Park for the first round of the Leinster championship.

Gaelic football and hurling had been his first sports growing up, before he departed for a rugby playing secondary school. Throughout his entire rugby and soccer career, he played Gaelic football every summer. However, this was primarily confined to club football. By the late seventies, he was unable to commit to playing for the county.

And then when the summer came, I played for Bray Emmets and latterly, Eire Óg, and that's when I played for Wicklow. I played for Wicklow minors in hurling and football. And then I played a few friendly games and played in the first round of the championship that year (1975) for Wicklow.

Despite McNaughton's pedigree, The Irish Press reported his selection as a major shock

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The selection of McNaughton to wear Wicklow's no.14 shirt against Louth in Croke Park will caused raised eyebrows. He is not, however, a newcomer to the GAA scene and this will not be his first appearance in Croke Park.

He played U-16 and minor hurling for the county and, in fact, was on a Wicklow team narrowly beaten by Down in a weak counties All-Ireland final at headquarters in the late 60s.

Wicklow were beaten by Louth that day on a scoreline of 2-22 to 2-6. Louth would go on to frighten Heffo's Dublin side, in Navan no less, in the next round.

It has been claimed in the past that he played League of Ireland soccer for Shels, championship football for Wicklow and international rugby for Ireland in the one year. But this is not true.

It's kind of a quiz question, who played in Croke Park, Dalymount Park and Lansdowne Road and I think it was around the same season. But I think it was extended to say I was on the international rugby team at the time. I wouldn't have been able to play soccer the day before an international rugby match. But it's grown legs allright.

He was forced to cut short his international rugby career in 1981 on taking up a post with the IDA working in the United States.

Read more: Balls Remembers: A Profile Of The First Leinster Heineken Cup Team In 1995

 

 

Conor Neville
Article written by
Perennial finalist in stand-up comedy competitions and former Contract Lawyer/ Coal Salesman with Corless, Corless and Sweeney

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