Queen’s, the oldest continuous rugby club in Ulster and second oldest in Ireland, recently celebrated it’s 150th anniversary with a Gala Dinner in the Whitla Hall.
The highlight of the night was the unveiling of Queen’s Greatest XV sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
With 22 British Lions, the most of any club in Ireland, competition for places was fierce and some big names were set to miss out as a panel of experts debated three nominees for each position.
Tommy Bowe, two-time Lions tourist, joint second on Ireland’s all time try scorer list and the Pro12/14 all-time leading try scorer, was selected at full-back, the position where he played nearly all his rugby for Queen’s.
Trevor Ringland, who made 10 British Lions appearances on 1983 tour of New Zealand scoring five tries, was a Triple Crown winner in 1982 and 1985, and Cecil Pedlow, who donned the famous red shirt 13 times in 1955 including the decisive try in the first test against South Africa in at Ellis Park were chosen as the two wingers.
Queen’s have produced six centres that played for the Lions including the club’s first, Alexander Foster in 1910, and nobody could have disagreed with any combination that was selected. Eventually David Hewitt and Dick Milliken got the nod.
Hewitt scored 118 points for the Lions, the most of any Ulsterman during two tours in 1959 and 1962, while Milliken was part the 1974 Invincibles that won 21 matches and drew the other in South Africa.
Names like David Irwin, Noel Henderson and Harry McKibbin were unlucky to miss out.
The imperious Jack Kyle was a unanimous choice at out-half. He was instrumental in Ireland winning their first grand slam in 1948, won two more five Nations Championships, made 20 appearances for the Lions 1950 scoring seven tries and considered by many as Ireland’s greatest ever player.
Roger Young was the undisputed selection at scrum-half, the pivot played as many games for the Lions as he did for Ireland making 26 appearances for both sides.
In the pack prop Fuzzy Anderson is the only player in the Greatest XV not to have earned Lions honours, he won 13 Ireland caps during the 1950s.
Henry O’Hara O’Neill is the only prop to play for Queen’s and the Lions. A Schools’ Cup winner with Coleraine Academical Institution in 1925 he toured New Zealand five years later, he played in 17 games including the Lions only test win against the All Blacks.
Hooker Ken Kennedy completed the front row.
Robin Thompson captained the Lions aged 24 on the 1955 drawn tour of South Africa playing in three of four tests, he made 20 Lions appearances scoring one try and made the second row with Blair Mayne in Queen’s Greatest XV.
Mayne, a former Irish Universities heavyweight boxing champion, played 20 times for the Lions on the 1938 tour of South Africa including all three tests and was part of the Queen’s side that was the only undefeated team in Irish rugby during 1936/7 season before becoming one of the most decorated soldiers of World War Two.
The back row was hotly contested with Lions like Nigel Carr and William Tyrrell unfortunate not to earn a place.
Phil Matthews captained Ireland at the 1991 world cup, won 38 caps scoring 16 points, made one Lions appearance in the 1989 Centenary Match and faced the All Blacks three times in a week.
Robert Alexander played in all three Lions tests in South Africa in 1938 scoring a try in the last test victory, he played 14 games for the Lions scoring six tries and was also capped by Ireland at cricket.
Bill McKay was the only man the All Blacks feared on the 1950 tour, a special forces operative during the Second World War, he played in all six tests for the Lions in New Zealand and Australia, making 16 appearances in the red shirt scoring 10 tries. He won 23 Ireland caps and captained Queen’s 1951.