The day the All Blacks shot down the black stuff in Duhallow


It was a case of the picture not quite telling 1,000 words that led Paul Gallagher on a quest that spanned five decades and from North Cork to New Zealand. And while it’s an offbeat sports tale, it also comes with a reminder of the decline of rural Ireland. The photo in question (see main photo) had pride of place in Lyon’s Bar, Cecilstown (between Mallow and Kanturk) where it had been the subject of conversation since the mid-1970s. In it, the pub’s late owner, Ms Lyons, is seen pulling a pint as a group of warm-looking men wait for their drinks. One of the men is local native Stephen O’Leary, a gamekeeper at nearby Lohort Castle, but it’s the others who are the main talking point as they are members of the national rugby team of New Zealand, the All Blacks. This raises an obvious question: how did the All Blacks end up in a rural North Cork pub one day in November 1974? “The photo was the kind of treasure any pub in Ireland would be proud to have, it is absolutely iconic in my opinion and the circumstances surrounding the capture of this moment would be impossible to recreate in the world we live in today,” says Paul Gallagher, who spent several hours in the Bar de Lyon, which is now closed. He had parts of the tale, but not all of it. Lyon’s Bar closed permanently shortly before the arrival of the pandemic and it was during the quietest hours of confinement that Paul set out to find out more. More specifically, he wanted to know who the All Blacks players were in the photo. He already knew a large part the rest of the story, and it goes like this: on Friday November 1, 1974, the All Blacks landed in Cork after an 81-hour journey from New Zealand (with a 23-hour layover in Singapore) for a goodwill tour of Ireland, taking on teams Irish Rugby. New Zealanders had been coming here since 1905. The team were taken up by Cork Examiner training at Winter’s Hill, Sunday’s Well the next day and on 6 November took on a ‘combined university’ team at Musgrave Park. Although they won that match, there was “no glory for the All Blacks”, according to the headline, as the score was only 10-3. The visitors attended a civic reception in Limerick on Friday November 8 before taking on Munster at Thomond Park on November 9, where they regained their pride with a 14-4 win. After that, they headed for a date with Leinster on November 13. All of these dates are important because they beg the question: where in this busy travel schedule did visitors have time to stop for pints in a corner a little out of the way of North? Cork? Enter John Augustine ‘Jack’ Mulcahy, Irish-born American high-flyer, industrialist, businessman and philanthropist. After bringing a major American company to Ireland, then Pfizer to Cork, in 1974, Mulcahy had also embarked on several commercial and altruistic projects here, such as the hotel, clubhouse and golf course. now world-famous Waterville golf course, completed in 1973. In North Cork, Mulcahy had the shooting rights to the grounds of Lohort Castle, a short walk from Cecilstown. Here, Mulcahy invited his friends and associates for a day of filming, people like his horse racing friends Vincent O’Brien and Robert Sangster, and Sonny Perks of Perks Funfair. These excursions always ended with a stop at Lyon’s Bar, where he wouldn’t allow anyone but himself to pay, all night. His guests are said to have honored his wishes by drinking heavily. And so it was that the All Blacks arrived at a secluded watering hole in mid-November 1974, after a day of shooting pheasants, or at least trying to, as guests of an Irish American high flyer. All this, Paul Gallagher was able to reconstruct, except the identity of the New Zealand players. He knew one, their team captain Sid Going, sitting behind a half-drunk pint. It’s ironic because Going, a Morman, didn’t drink alcohol. But what about the rest? In an attempt to identify the others, Paul turned to New Zealand. “Shortly after Christmas I sent a bunch of emails to radio and TV stations in New Zealand, as well as the New Zealand Rugby Union. It was fully within spec. , a trawl to see who would bite,” said Paul, a Mallow native who now lives in Castlemagner. “Then on the same day I received two replies, from the New Zealand Rugby Union, who have a memorabilia section and who was interested in the photo, and from Radio New Zealand.” Not only did Paul finally solve most of the mystery of the players’ names, but he also ended up doing a live slot on Radio New Zealand, telling them how the All Blacks landed in Duhallow for a pheasant shot and a few pints at Lyon’s Bar.However, Paul – PRO with Castlemagner GAA Club – also highlights how this story shines a light on the decline of rural Ireland, not just in the north of Cork, but all over the country.” At that time, Cecilstown was u n prosperous village,” he said. “There was not one but two pubs, both owned by the Lynes at the time, a post office and a shop. Now there is Geoff’s Bar but everything else is gone. Definitely a thought-provoking ending to the story.

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