THE great and the good of Leinster and Irish rugby came to Carlow’s Woodford Dolmen Hotel on Friday night to take part in a very successful Carlow rugby club gala fundraiser.
The guest list, headed by Leinster and Irish outhalf Johnny Sexton, included Leinster head coach Leo Cullen, former Ireland team manager Mick Kearney, Irish women’s internationals Nora Stapleton, Ciara Cooney and Sophie Spence, and Johne Murphy of Munster and Leicester fame.
In an on-stage interview, Leinster coach Leo Cullen, who captained his province to three Heineken Cup wins, predicted a return to the winners’ enclosure for the Blues. He made special mention of the three Carlow players, twins Ed and Brian Byrne and Tom Daly, all of whom played in Leinster’s win over the Scarlets at the weekend.
Cullen’s confidence in Leinster and Ireland was echoed by Johnny Sexton who was given a standing ovation by the packed room. Sexton proved to be a lively interviewee and well able to mix the banter with MC Brendan Hennessy.
Mick Kearney was manager of the Irish team for the last November’s famous win over the All Blacks in Chicago. “I wasn’t surprised that we beat them. I felt that we were building up to this win ever since the narrow defeat to the Blacks in 2014,” he told the audience.
The three members of the all-conquering Irish women’s team also drew a standing ovation. Sophie Spence was nominated as world woman’s player for the year award in 2016 and she was joined by Irish out-half and Donegal native Nora Stapleton and former Tullow player and Galway native Ciara Cooney.
Carlow’s current and incoming club presidents Justin Hannon and Ian Dwyer were effusive in their praise for the organising committee who did a great job in putting the event together.
Earlier in the night, David Walsh from club sponsor Netwatch spoke on the theme of leadership and stressed how proud he was of his company’s links to Carlow rugby club.
“When Niall Kelly and I set up Netwatch a source in the security industry was reported as saying that a couple of ‘muck savages from Carlow’ won’t get anywhere. Well Newatch now has 200 muck savages from Carlow operating across the globe,” said the Netwatch CEO.