Gary Halpin RIP

The Old Christians Committee, youth Co-Ordinators, Caoches and the wider club community would like to express our deepest condolences to the Halpin family and especially our head coach Ken on the passing of his close friend, team mate and rugby legend. They both played for Ireland, London Irish and remained friends throughout the years.

Gary passed away suddenly at the age of 55 and will be greatly missed by all who knew him. May he rest in peace.

Below is an interview of Gary from the London Irish website



It is with great sadness that London Irish has learned of the death of its former player Gary Halpin, who passed away suddenly on Tuesday 23 February.

” I remember the friendships more than the games and to be honest that is more important.”GARY HALPIN

Gary was ever present in the London Irish team from 1991 to 1998 and captained the team during the transition from Amateur to Professional status.

His affable manner on the pitch at Sunbury after games then in the top bar made him everyone’s friend. He was welcomed on a visit to Hazelwood in 2019 at the London Irish mini festival.

We extend our sincere sympathy to Gary’s wife Carol, their three children and his extend family.
We are pleased to republish an interview with Gary in 2006.

This interview was first published on the Sunbury Centre website in June 2006. That site has moved on and the authors, Paul Brennan and Martyn Warner, have kindly allowed London Irish Amateur RFC to host much of the material.

London Irish Amateur RFC acknowledges and credits Paul and Martyn for the interview.

Garrett Francis (Gary) Halpin

Clubs: Wanderers, London Irish, Blackrock College, Leinster, Barbarians, Ireland and Brighton.

Gary Halpin, ex London Irish Captain and legend. Everyone remembers or has heard about the announcement made during a match to move his car as it was blocking an ambulance entering Sunbury. Those who used to watch Irish in the Sunbury days will remember him wandering around in his club blazer, shirt and tie whilst wearing shorts. Others will remember him for scoring a try against the All Blacks during the 1995 World Cup. Our American cousins will know him for being a four times All-American intercollegiate hammer thrower. He also represented Ireland in the hammer throw at the 1987 World Athletics Championships in Rome.

When/where did you start to play rugby?
Kilkenny rugby club aged 5 and then in Rockwell College, Tipp aged 12.

Have you always played Prop?
No, but I’ve never been out of the front row….hooker.

When did join London Irish and how many games did you play?
I joined London Irish in 1991 and left in 1999 I could not be sure how many games I played but over a hundred.

How many points did you score in your London Irish days?
No idea.

What brought you to London Irish?
No job in Ireland, I was going nowhere and Rob Saunders approached me at an Ireland squad session and put me in contact with Hugh Carlin. Hugh did so much for me in helping me to make roots in London. I will never be able to thank him enough.

Who was/were the coach(es)?
George Hook, Hika Reid, Clive Woodward, Willie Anderson and Dick Best.

What was the training like?
I enjoyed training.

Who was your most difficult opponent?
Alan Sharpe of Bristol. We had many a good ding-dong.

What was Sunbury like in your time playing there?
Awesome. I really loved playing there. It was not just a rugby club; it was a home from home. A meeting place for Irish people in London.

What was your favourite away ground?
Orrell, the Lanc’s lads were very like us paddies, we had great craic after the match with characters like Sammy Southern, Dave Cleary and Dewi Morris.

Who do you consider was the best player you played with for London Irish?
Mata’afa Keenan, a second row of real quality. He was inspirational, huge big tackles and great on the ball.

Who were the characters at London Irish in your time playing?
Aidan Higgins stands out a larger-than-life chap, Ciaran Bird was another and of course Ken, the legend, O’Connell.

Do you still keep in contact with any of your old team mates?
I do with Ken and Gabriel Fulcher.

What was your most memorable game?
I think beating Quins 60-12 at Sunbury was a great day.

You were with the club at the start of professionalism, how did that affect you?
It was tough a first but we did learn quickly. The change from work to rugby did take time. We had to change; we were not fit enough at the start but that was to be expected. In the amateur days at London Irish it was all about fun but money changed everything.

Were you tempted to return to Ireland to play at that time?
Not really, although I did finish my career at Leinster. London Irish, as all clubs, became very different places with professionalism.

The professional London Irish team is no longer a team for Irish/Irish descent players, what are your feelings about this?
I do not have any negative feelings in this regard. London Irish unites Anglo Irish people and gives them a sense of pride. In that respect nothing has changed. London Irish has a long tradition of inviting multi-national players to play for the club.

Do you miss playing for London Irish?
Yes, I do. It was without doubt the best years of my life both in rugby and personal family terms. Carol. my wife, and I loved the club; our kids grew up there.

You played under a number of coaches at Irish, who was the hardest task master?
Dick Best stands alone in this regard. He inherited a mess and ultimately turned the club into one of the forces in the English game. Hika Reid was another hard nut.

Do you have a favourite story from your playing days?
Yes, when we were away to Leicester in the cup. It was about 1992/93. Aidan Higgins who was a very big chap at 147kgs was playing in the second row. His No. 5 shirt would not fit him so he wore the No. 21 sub props shirt. As we ran on to the field the Leicester announcer said “ladies and gentlemen today the London Irish second rower, A. Higgins, will wear the number 21 shirt as he cannot fit into the No. 5 shirt,” It seemed like all 12000 at Welford laughed at the same time.

You joined Harlequins after being released by Irish, how different was Quins to Irish?
I loved playing at Quins. They were very different to what I expected, very family orientated club. I was out of contract with London Irish and needed a change, all my mates had moved on and the club needed new blood.

What went through your head when you heard your car registration being read out over the tannoy during the cup game against Leicester, asking for it to be moved to allow the ambulance in?
The fact that I heard the number being called out tells me that I should have been concentrating a little better.

Did you go on any overseas tours with London Irish?
Yes, I went to Canada with the club in 1993. That was one hell of a trip.

How difficult was it for London Irish to put out a XV on Inter-provincial weekends?
It was difficult but we got by. The club suffered during that time. We lost contracted players on several weekends and it had a big influence on us nearly being relegated in 1996.

Did you ever play Inter-provincial rugby one day and for London Irish the next?

You played for Ireland on a number of occasions, how did it feel to pull on the shirt for the first time?
It was a dream come true.

What are your memories of playing for Ireland?
I don’t have many memories of playing as with only 11 caps, it is difficult to remember. I remember the friendships more than the games and to be honest that is more important.

What was it like to score a try against New Zealand, can you talk us through it?
Scoring the try was great; It was a planned move. The Kiwis expected Nick Popplewell to receive the pass as he was a big ball carrier at that time, I got the pass and trundled over.

Did playing for London Irish affect your International career?
Not really, I suppose it only affected me on close calls. With the exception of 6 caps when I lost out to another player, I felt the selectors got it right most of the time.

Did you go on any overseas tours with Ireland? If so to where?
89 USA and Canada, 91 Namibia, 92 New Zealand, 94 Australia, 95 World Cup South Africa, 96 New Zealand.

Who was your hardest international opponent and why?
Louis Armory the French prop, tough as nails.

What was your favourite away ground?
Ellis Park.

Did you win any other honours, inter-provincial/county/Barbarians etc.?

When did you stop playing rugby?
At Leinster in 2001.

How good was the Leinster side you played in at that time?
Leinster were very good at that time. I loved playing for Leinster.

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