'He was everybody’s friend': Former Ireland international Gary Halpin has died

'You need to be a bit mental to give the [All Blacks] the finger after scoring a try. Ballsy'
'He was everybody’s friend': Former Ireland international Gary Halpin has died

Gary Halpin, Pictured ahead of an international friendly in 1993. Picture: David Maher

Tributes have been pouring in for former Ireland rugby international Gary Halpin who died, aged 55.

Halpin made 11 appearances for the national team, making his debut against England at Twickenham in 1990, and famously scoring a try against New Zealand at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. 

A prop forward, he played club rugby for Leinster, London Irish and Harlequins.

He also represented Ireland in the hammer, competing at the 1987 World Athletics Championships.

A tribute posted by Rockwell College President John Riordan said that apart from the former Cashel pupil's sporting achievement "there was so much more to Gary".

"Those of us lucky enough to have spent time in Rockwell College in the early 1980s always knew there was something special about one Garrett Francis Halpin. He made everybody feel great. He was everybody’s friend. He was everybody’s hero. You couldn’t but love him.

"Every teacher, every member of staff, every opponent on the rugby pitch, every competitor in the Hammer - all have stories of their interactions with Gary," Mr Riordan added.

"The part that they remembered was how he made them feel - Gary cared about inclusion before it was a movement. He was the same lovely, warm and funny guy with everyone."

IRFU President Des Kavanagh offered his condolences on behalf of the IRFU. 

"It was with deep regret that I heard of the sudden death of Gary Halpin. Hailing from a highly respected rugby family in Kilkenny, Gary’s father Tom was a major contributor to Leinster Junior Rugby and had a significant involvement in the Towns Cup Sponsorship by Smithwicks. A great supporter of Kilkenny RFC, Tom’s contribution to the touchline banter was legendary.

"In recent years Gary had maintained an involvement with the game both through his work as Head of Boarding in Roscrea College where his commitment and positivity was highly respected by all who engaged with him and in Kilkenny RFC where he was Scrum Coach. His passing will be mourned by all who knew him. To his family we send our deepest condolences."

Following his playing days, Halpin had been teaching in England and Wales before more recently becoming the Head of Boarding at Cistercian College Roscrea.

A statement from the school read: "The College community of staff, students, parents and monks were devastated this morning on hearing of the sudden death of our much loved colleague and friend Gary Halpin RIP. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."

Former Ireland international Jerry Flannery was among the first to pay tribute to Halpin.

"One of my favourite players when I was a kid," the former Munster front row said. "You need to be a bit mental to give the [All Blacks] the finger after scoring a try. Ballsy"

Alan Quinlan added:

"Very sad news to hear this morning of the passing suddenly of Gary Halpin. What a lovely man he was and a wonderful character. Sincere condolences to all his family and friends. RIP."

"Condolences to the family. Anyone in the Irish rugby family who passes on, it's a tragic day. Very tough time for the family and condolences to them," said Dave Kilcoyne.

Former Leinster coach and Virgin Media analyst Matt Williams added his condolences.

"Heartbroken at the news that Gary Halpin has died," he wrote on Twitter. "A great athlete representing Ireland at hammer throwing & rugby. The best sense of humour & the funniest man I have ever coached. Off the field a gentleman & great family man. The world today is a lesser place. RIP Gary."

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