Munster Lions: 22 tour heroes to be honoured

FRIDAY sees one of the most formidable collection of legends in one room since Homer sat down to write the Odyssey.

A special gathering of Munster rugby Lions in Cork will honour the 22 living Munster Lions, from Mick Lane and Jim McCarthy of the 1950 Tour to last year's tourists to New Zealand.

"This highlights Munster's amazing contribution to the Lions down the years," says Donal Lenihan, who both played with and managed the Lions.

"Nothing's ever been done to recognise them, and you're going from the time when it took six months to get out to New Zealand or Australia to the present day, when lads just turn up on the day for a flight out and are given everything they need."

The occasion will also honour support staff associated with the Lions, such as Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan, selector Brian O'Brien, refereeing advisor Dave McHugh and baggage manager Pat O'Keeffe.

The event is in aid of the Lions Trust, the official charitable foundation of the British and Irish Lions, which was formally established by the Lions Committee in 2002.

The founding Chairman of the Lions Trust was Dr Syd Millar, who is currently Chairman of the International Rugby Board.

Much attention is expected to be focused on a unique item to be auctioned at the event, a framed Lions jersey which features the names of each of the 22 Lions and their tour embroidered on it; the jersey features the autograph of each player below their name.

Other items to be auctioned include trips to Paris for Ireland's Six Nations game with France next month, tickets for Ireland's home games in this year's tournament and a framed autographed portrait of the 2005 Lions.

The lunch will also see the Irish launch of the limited edition book, The Lions The Complete History of the British & Irish Rugby Union Team, the most comprehensive and up to date book ever published on the history of this rugby institution.

Each limited edition book is personally signed by the author, as well as by four Lions captains and three opposing team captains, including Willie John McBride, John Dawes, Brian Lochore, Morné du Plessis, John Eales, Bill Beaumont and Gavin Hastings.

"One of the most important features of the lunch is that it proves conclusively that the Wallaces from Limerick are the only three brothers to have played for the Lions," says Lenihan.

A special presentation will be made to Richard, Paul and current Munster favourite David Wallace to mark their unique achievement. In keeping with the Munster ethos, the presentation will be made by Lions Mick Lane, Jim McCarthy and Mick English.

"Munster are on a high at the moment in the Heineken Cup and this highlights the contribution of the province to rugby over the last number of decades," says Lenihan. "It's going to be a unique rugby occasion."

Willie John McBride and Keith Wood are the guest speakers at the event, while another former Lion, Fergus Slattery, will handle the charity auction.

Though the event has completely sold out, those interested in bidding for the signed jersey or other items can contact event organiser Michael O'Brien at 087-2129999.

MUNSTER LIONS: Tom Kiernan, Donal Lenihan, Michael Kiernan, Noel Murphy, Mick Lane, Colm Tucker, Moss Keane, Tony Ward, Ginger McLoughlin, Barry Bresnihan, Michael English, Richard Wallace, Paul Wallace, Mick Galwey, Keith Wood, Jim McCarthy, David Wallace, Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell, John Hayes, Donnacha O'Callaghan, Rob Henderson.

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