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The Story Of How Eamon De Valera Almost Played Rugby For Ireland

The Story Of How Eamon De Valera Almost Played Rugby For Ireland
By Conor Neville Updated
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Last week, on the 92nd anniversary of his death, we looked at Michael Collins' sporting credentials, pausing to note his frank dislike of soccer. Seven days later and we are marking the 39th anniversary of Eamon De Valera.

There is much less of a hoopla surrounding the anniversary of Dev's death, disadvantaged as he is in this regard by dying in his bed at 92 years of age, rather than taking to a bullet to the head in his early 30s.

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But, we'll ask the question. What type of sportsman was De Valera?

It turns out Dev was a decent rugby player at his school, Blackrock College in Shannon (not Dublin). And, according to some sources, he played full-back for Munster in 1905. Indeed, he apparently came seriously close to winning an Irish cap around this time.

According to Seamus J. King, in an article on Rockwell College, Dev came incredibly close to an Irish cap during his stint as a Maths teacher at the school. He was part of the team that propelled Rockwell to the Munster Cup Final and earned a trial with Munster.

With Jack Barrott he helped to form a three-quarter combination which helped Rockwell to the final of the Munster cup and earned for him a place in a Munster trial for the inter-provincial team. It is possible that he came closer to an Irish cap than was realised at the time. Ireland was looking for a full-back and de Valera was tried out of his usual place in that position. His opposite number later played full-back for Ireland for many years. But de Valera's great chance eluded him. A high kick came his way with the field spreadeagled. If he could have caught it he would almost certainly have scored a spectacular try. But it bounced off his chest and the opportunity did not return.

What's more, Dev believed every Irishman should play rugby, asserting that the game suited the Irish psyche perfectly.

There is no football game to match rugby. If all our young men played rugby not only would we beat England and Wales, but France and the whole lot of them together.

In a conversation on sport with the British ambassador, he said 'For my part I have always preferred rugby.'

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