An array of Irish rugby legends on hand to celebrate Fergus Slattery. Picture: Rock Photos

 sport@dublingazette.com

BLACKROCK College RFC hosted a star-studded 70th birthday tribute dinner for Fergus Slattery with the Concert Hall at the RDS providing the perfect setting for 430 family, friends, former teammates and special guests.

A great celebration commenced with BBC commentator and sports presenter Jim Neilly, a long-time friend and colleague of Slattery, regaling the audience with many nostalgic stories from his career and post rugby career as a pundit.

The room was littered with an incredible line-up of former international players and teammates including rugby greats like Willie John McBride, Mike Gibson, Ray McLoughlin, Hugo MacNeill, Alain Rolland, Job Langbroek, Niall Brophy, Leo Cullen, Ollie Campbell, Neil Francis, Michael Kiernan and Johnny Moloney.

Of those fellow greats and ex Rock alumni, MacNeill eloquently spoke about Slattery, reminding the crowd how frequently the word “legend” is used to describe people these days, but is a most appropriate description for Slattery.

He earned 61 caps for Ireland between 1970 and 1984 – including the triple crown winning 1982 team – as well as playing 18 times for the Barbarians. He toured New Zealand with the Lions in 1971 and then again in 1974 to South Africa, playing all four matches and captaining the side a couple of times on the tour.

For Ireland, he was captain of the 1979 side that won seven of their eight matches in Australia, including tests in Brisbane and Sydney. A legend on the rugby pitch as well as being a fierce advocate for Blackrock College RFC and club rugby in general.

Hugo described “a dedicated, passionate Fergus who has always offered to lend a hand, whether it be MC’ing a local charity function or a rugby club dinner in rural Wales, presenting match day jerseys to the 1st XV team, or driving around town to gather signatures for an auction item.

“A selfless, willing individual like Fergus is hard to find but someone who is always supported by his friends, family and former teammates as was most evident by those in attendance.”

Later in the evening, Club President Pappy Burke presented him with a piece of custom artwork of the famous image of Fergus leading the British & Irish Lions out onto the pitch.

The celebratory cake, created by long-time club member, Joannie Langbroek, added a very personal touch, combining the colours from Fergus’s three jerseys from Rock, Ireland and the Lions to commemorate a remarkable career.