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A NIGHT TO REMEMBER!

It was, indeed, a night to remember! From the moment our taxi swung onto Sussex Road at around 6:45pm and the throng of at least a hundred over-dressed customers outside O’Brien’s Pub came into sight, the magnitude of the occasion began to sink in.

“Don’t they know there’s a free bar in the hotel!” spluttered one of my traveling companions, a miserable so and so who shall remain nameless.

And there was! Or, as the “Evening’s Programme” for the Lansdowne F.C 150th Anniversary Gala Ball put it more sedately, “a Drinks Reception”. Either way, the night was off to a cracking start as the close on a thousand guests mingled, greeting friends and acquaintances, both old and new, and soaked up the cracking atmosphere as well as many of those complimentary drinks….

The sheer numbers attending and the logistics involved in getting all the guests into the dining room and seated at one of the 82 tables meant that the Programme Schedule was always under duress. It was only under the threat of a Putin-like strike that MC for the night Barry Murphy finally managed to get all of the attendees seated and some order imposed.

The kick-off was marked by a video collage of Lansdowne’s history prepared and edited by former President Michael Cassidy which set the perfect tone for the evening’s proceedings.

The guest list read like a “Who’s Who” of Lansdowne, Dublin and the wider Irish Rugby and Sporting Society; Irish Times rugby scribe Gerry Thornley was there, although sharing a table with seven Mulligans meant he might have struggled to get a word in edgeways; Tony and Robbie Twomey graced a table shared by Paul and Lulu Van Cauwelaert; Noel and Barbara Hoffman and former Club Hon. Treasurer David McDowell.

Notables at Michael and Yvonne Cassidy’s table were Eddie and Hildegarde O’Connor and John Conmee, on a busman’s holiday as he returned to the dining halls where he presided over thousands of repasts as Banqueting Manager in the old Burlington Hotel for over 20 years.

The celebratory evening saw the return to the Dirty Auld Town of many Lansdowne exiles; Geoff Dawson (USA), brother of Club President Mick; Kevin Hanley, international referee (USA); Michael and Mary Gibson (London); Mike and Bernie Ruddock (Wales); Mark MacWhite (Australia); John and Anne Driscoll (Wales); Paul Smith (London); Niall Keller (South Africa); Alan Ryan (Canada); Andy and Sharon Doyle (London); Ron Boucher and Darren O’Reilly (London) and Ian Prendiville (Canada), to mention but a few.

Lansdowne’s provincial roots were well represented on the night by a swathe of Limerick people – Pat and Ita Chesser; Shane, Ruth, Pat and Deirdre Whelan; Phil and Eimear Danaher; Di and Mary Power; Micky Kelly; Liam Toland; Jim and Renee Hogan as well as Mick and Mary Sherry.

Cork, too, was well represented by Paul “Pakkie” and Jan Derham; Frankie and Daphne Forrest; Fergus and Elaine Aherne and recently returned exiles Scott and Julie Deasy as well as Eamonn Mills. Exiles who went in the other direction included Conor and Pauline Hayden.

How many Irish caps were in the room? When one could mention Alan “Dixie” Duggan, Eric Elwood; Jimmy Bowen; Jamie Heaslip; Dan Sheehan; Leo Cullen; Paul Collins; Nick Popplewell; Devin Toner; Tom Clancy; Michael Gibson; Alan Reddan; Gordon D’Arcy; Des Fitzgerald; Donal Spring; Vinny Becker; John Sexton; the legendary Ollie Campbell, who shared a table with Terry Kennedy, Johnny Maloney, Rory Moroney and no less than seven Quinns, led by the shy and retiring Micky…

From around the island of Ireland, we had Joe Daly (Ballinrobe), Willie and Caoimhe Earl (Gorey), Andy Corcoran (Kerry), Willie Dawson (Skerries!), Willie, Tommy and Jimmy Burns; Terry Kavanagh (Newport, Co. Mayo) and a table taken by our Northern Ireland members (Lansdowne FC Donaghadee Branch) led by the great Ronnie Porter OBE, his lovely wife Elma, and Brian and Elaine Huston.

Rugby administration and coaching were well represented, too, by Kevin Potts (Chief Executive IRFU); Gerry Murphy (former Irish Coach); Leinster Director of Rugby Leo Cullen; Kay Bowen (Trinity); Mark McDermott (former Russia Head Coach); Mark McHugh (Lansdowne Head Coach). ex-Lansdowne player Hubie Kos represented his Dad, former Lansdowne great from the 1960’s, Miklos Kos, while Lansdowne’s continuity was personified by the presence of Centenary Year Club Captain Johnny Mitchell and his wife, Vivienne.

The food was great, the wine flowed and the bar was open until 2:30am (I think; things began to get a bit fuzzy well before that…!). The Velvet Lounge Band provided the jazzy music as the dancing began..… Discretion prevents me from naming one or two guests who, perhaps having decided to dine well rather than wisely or else just overcome by the sense of occasion, decided to try and make a name for themselves on the dance floor!

Before all that, a raffle in aid of Lansdowne Youth and Mini Rugby was a great success.

After dinner, sports compere Hugh Cahill facilitated a fascinating interview with former All Blacks legend, Sean Fitzpatrick and current Ireland star, Lansdowne’s Dan Sheehan, which embraced a wide and penetrating analysis of the professional era to date from two of the best hookers in the business, past and present.

Gala events such as the 150th Anniversary Ball don’t happen overnight, and our grateful appreciation must go to Michael Kearney and his hardworking Committee (most of them, anyway!)  – Rosie Dawson, Scott Deasy, Luke Healy, Frank Kenny, Joe and Duggie Leddin, Brian McDermott, Brian Moran, Oisin O’Buachalla, Collette O’Malley, Elayne Power, Derry Shaw and John Conmee.

Likewise, a serious vote of thanks is owed to our Gala Ball sponsors, in particular our main sponsor, the Ardagh Group. They were ably supported by Garry Moore, SteriPack Ireland; Heineken and The Dingle Distillery (Dingle Gin) who generously sponsored the Drinks Reception; Mitchell & Son for sponsoring the after-dinner Armagnac and Lindt for the Chocolates, of which this scribe confesses to have over-indulged himself.

Player tables were sponsored by Care to Comfort (Yvonne Cassidy & Martin Deasy); John Gallagher; Oisin O’Buachalla; Smart Mortgages and Jim Maguire.

Copies of Professor Ivar McGrath’s History of Lansdowne sold like hotcakes on the night, although one or two guests appeared to have left their copies behind on their tables for some reason…. A cracking read, and an insight into the social and economic developments that helped shape the creation and development of this great club of ours over the last 150 years.

Have a great season!

Michael Daly

P.S. Any errors and mistakes in this article are purely my own and my apologies to anyone who feels they should have been mentioned, but weren’t!!

Please click HERE to access the official photographs from the night.

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