Post-war rugby star Dr Karl Mullen was an iconic figure in Irish sport, Sports Minister Martin Cullen said today.
Dr Mullen, who died at the weekend aged 82, captained Ireland’s first Grand Slam-winning team in 1948 and was in Cardiff last month to witness the country’s second victory.
The retired gynaecologist also captained the British and Irish Lions as a 23-year-old on the tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1950.
Mr Cullen said: “It will be for the delivery of these key memorable moments in our rugby history that this iconic man of Irish sport will be best remembered.”
The Dubliner was present in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff last month to cheer on Brian O’Driscoll and his team as they beat Wales by a late drop goal to end the 61-year Grand Slam famine.
“He was very encouraging to young players who must have been very pleased at the Irish team’s victory against Wales,” added Mr Cullen.
Dr Mullen passed away at his home in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, last night.
A front-row forward, Dr Mullen went on to win 25 international caps for his country.
Dr Mullen was educated at Belvedere College and UCD and later practised as a gynaecologist.
Dr Mullen’s contribution to Irish sport has been immense and he brought great honour to himself and to his country, Mr Cullen said.
The minister said the rugby star was courageous as a team captain during the Grand Slam year and the Lions’ Tour and had the capacity to bring people together.
Mr Cullen extended deepest sympathy to Dr Mullen’s family and friends at this sad time.
The Irish Rugby Football Union has extended its sympathies to the family of Dr Karl Mullen at the former Ireland captain's recent passing.
Educated at Belvedere College and Royal College of Surgeons, he went on to play for Old Belvedere and gained the first of his 25 Ireland caps as a hooker in 1947 against France.
He had previously appeared for Ireland in the uncapped games against France, England, Wales and Scotland in 1946.
Mullen was first choice for the 1948 Five Nations Championship and while Ernie Strathdee captained Ireland for the opening game against France, Mullen took over for the remainder of the tournament.
Under his captaincy Ireland won a famous Triple Crown as well as Ireland's first ever Grand Slam.
Speaking about the famous victory in Ravenhill Dr Mullen said: "We were tense and anxious, yet I knew and the players knew we could win. Every man had his say, it was an important part of the pre-match preparations in a side whose hallmark was team spirit."
At the end of his playing career, he continued to be involved in the game and had a noted administrative career which included serving as President of the Leinster Branch (1963/64) and also as Chairman of the Irish selectors.
IRFU President John Lyons said: ''I would like to express my personal sorrow and that of the Irish Rugby Football Union on the sad passing of Karl Mullen.
"He was one of the great heroes of Irish rugby and leaves a lasting legacy for his contributions as a renowned hooker for Old Belvedere, Leinster, Ireland and the Lions and also for his input after his distinguished playing days as a committed and enthusiastic administrator of the game.
"I had the privilege of playing for Bective Rangers against Karl and I witnessed at first hand his great leadership and skills on the rugby field. I extend the sympathies of Irish rugby to his family.''