Saturday Panel: Rugby heroes recount IRA bombing which ended Nigel Carr's career

Irish rugby players were travelling from Belfast to Dublin when they were caught up in an explosion

April 25 1987 was the day that reshaped the lives of the Irish rugby team of that era, but for Nigel Carr it marked the end of his rugby career.

A month out from the inaugural Rugby World Cup, seven representatives of the Irish Rugby team set off for a team training session in Dublin from their starting point in Belfast. Two car loads began the journey but only one made it to the rugby grounds for training.

The other, containing David Irwin, Philip Rainey and Nigel Carr, were unfortunate to drive along a stretch of road on which an IRA bomb was detonated for the purpose of targeting a judge, who was killed by the blast along with his wife.

Carr, and fellow teamamtes Jim Glennon, Hugo Mac Neill and Philip Rainey told Nathan Murphy on Off The Ball about the incident and its impact on their World Cup experience. And despite being forced to retire from rugby, Carr reflects on the incident with commendable positivity.

'I didn't want to feel a victim or a bitterness. I ddn't find it difficult to think that way because it is the truth. I came out with all my fingers and toes, I can drive the car and play with the kids. There's so many people in Northern Ireland who were much worse injured. It could have been much worse for me.'

 

Mac Neill spoke about the devestation surrounding the loss of Nigel Carr from the team while Philip Rainey proffered a sobering point about how singing Ireland's Call can be a precious asset in preserving peace and understanding between those from opposite sides of the border.

'Even if consistutionally we remain apart, we can bring the people of the island together. The work that the IFA has done here with tackling sectarianism if fantastic. If we're gonna pay any tribute to those who lost their loved ones in the past then it's to make sure that it never happens again. If that means singing Ireland's Call is that too much to ask?' 

After absorbing the shock of the tragedy, the team carried on and with the the World Cup looming, the Irish Rugby contingent considered Amhrán na bhFiann to be an inappropriate anthem to play and so an executive decision was taken to replace it with, what Jim Glennon labelled it as, 'the didilidle' rendition of The Rose Of Tralee. 

Listen to the full interview here: