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Tom Kiernan

Nation: Ireland
Date of Birth: January 7, 1939
Place of Birth: Cork
Position: Full back
Internationals: 54 caps between 1960 and 1973
Inducted: England v Ireland (March 18, 2006)

The following article has been adapted from the original by Dai Llewellyn, which focused on two players. It has been changed to highlight only the selected inductee’s information.

Tom Kiernan, Ireland’s legendary full back, clocked up 54 appearances for his country at a time when there were nowhere as many opportunities to win caps. He has clear memories of the England v Ireland fixture. For a start, he made his international debut against England at Twickenham.

In 1960 the portents were not good for Kiernan. “When I made my Ireland debut against England in 1960 I remember it was a dark day, the Twickenham stands seemed to loom in over the pitch at us,” he said. And England ran out winners by eight points to five.

Kiernan remembers the contrasting 1964 match clearly as well. “Our best game and probably the best of my career, from a team point of view, had to be the 1964 match at Twickenham. We beat England 18-5 – which in those days was translated as three goals and a try to a goal. I think I kicked three conversions.”

He also has a clear memory of the 1970 game at HQ. “It was the most unusual thing I experienced at Twickenham,” he said.

“We recalled Tony O’Reilly after seven years. He played on the wing. He arrived by chauffeur-driven car. He was Managing Director of Heinz UK at the time. He had not played since 1963 and had put on some weight in the meantime, although he was still playing for London Irish.

“There were jokes going around at the time that O’Reilly had been picked because Keith Fielding, his opposite number on the England right wing, would have to run all the way around him to get past Tony, but he really wasn’t that fat.”

Sadly O’Reilly did not get much of an opportunity to make his mark on that match, which, as Mike Gibson recalled, “was a rather dour affair”. Bob Hiller won it for England with a couple of dropped goals, although Roger Shackleton scored a try late in the game.
Headquarters obviously meant a great deal to Kiernan. “I enjoyed playing at Twickenham,’ he said. “It is one of the great places to play, although I felt it was a very intimidating place, but then no international ground is friendly when you are visitors.

“The wind was always tricky there. Twickenham wasn’t enclosed in those days. The North and South ends were left open, and we were not allowed to practise at Twickenham either, so you just had to try your luck as a full back under the high ball and as a kicker– although Bob Hiller, the England full back, never seemed to have any problem there. Mind you, he played there more often because Harlequins used the ground for club matches.”

The ground also marked Kiernan’s 50th cap for Ireland in 1972, which began a run of five wins on the trot, home and away. “Sadly I played only in the first two of that run, and that was to be my last appearance at Twickenham.

“Our winning score came from the last play of the game, the try getting us in front by a couple of points. Before I took the conversion I asked the referee how much more time was left and he said it would be last kick of the match. So I was very confident when I lined up what was also to be my last kick at Twickenham after seven visits to the ground.”

Needless to say he didn’t miss.

Article by Dai Llewellyn


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