Happy Birthday Sir Tony

Today we salute one of the greatest of all the 777 players to pull on the British & Irish Lions jersey, Anthony Josephy Francis O'Reilly, who is 77 today. [more]

Happy Birthday Sir Tony

Today we salute one of the greatest of all the 777 players to pull on the British & Irish Lions jersey, Anthony Josephy Francis O’Reilly, who is 77 today.

As befits a flying wing and one of the world's leading businessmen, Tony O'Reilly has always been a man in a hurry. As an 18-year-old fresh out of Belvedere College, it had taken O’Reilly only five senior club appearances to play his way into the Irish team. Between 1955 and 1970 he won 29 caps and his Five Nations career of 15 years, 23 days was, for a while, the longest in history.

Clubs: Old Belvedere, Leicester, London Irish
Position: Wing
Lions Tours: 1955 to South Africa; 1959 to Australia, New Zealand and Canada
Lions Record: P 38 W 29 L 9 – 117 points
Test Record: P 10 W 5 L 5

Even 54 years after he last played for the Lions, his footprint is all over the record books.

– He scored more tries for the Lions than any other player, 38 in 38 games

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– He was selected to tour in 1955 when he was only 18 and celebrated his 19th birthday in South Africa

– His 16 tries in South Africa in 15 games still stands as a post-war record

– His 17 tries in New Zealand in 1959 was equalled in 1971 by John Bevan

– His 22 tries on the 1959 tour in Australia, New Zealand and Canada stands as as a post-war record

– His 6 tries in 10 Tests is a record for the Lions

– His 10 successive Tests, along with Rhys Williams, was a record eventually surpassed by Mike Gibson in 1971

After a mere four international caps he became a teenage Lion. His 16 tries in South Africa in 1955 still stands as a post-war record in that country and his 17 in New Zealand four years later was equalled by John Bevan in 1971, but has yet to be bettered. His 38 tries is the highest tally by a Lions player, and his six tries in 10 Tests, four of which came in successive matches, is another long-standing record.

At 6' 2" tall, weighing almost 15 stone and with flaming red hair, O'Reilly always stood out from the crowd and in South Africa received the sort of pop star treatment Barry John encountered in New Zealand in 1971. A try machine on the field, he was highly intelligent, personable and funny off it.

In partnership with his Irish team mate Andy Mulligan, he spent two nights playing music and telling jokes at the Auckland restaurant called the Hi-Diddle-Griddle two evenings before the final Test. O'Reilly summed up his Lions love affair thus: "I loved the freedom that I didn't get with Ireland, the thrill of receiving the ball 10 or 15 times in a game. The Lions played running rugby, and I was a runner."

He was among the inaugural inductees into the International Rugby Hall of Fame in 1997, and was inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2009. He scored 38 tries in 30 matches for the Barbarians and still heads their appearance and scoring charts.

But his prowess on the rugby field told only half the story of a man who became one of Ireland’s first billionaires. In fact, His business acumen arguably outstripped his sporting talent and success.

He joined the Irish Dairy Board as General Manager in 1962 and developed the successful Kerrygold ‘umbrella brand’ for Irish export butter. In 1966, he became the Managing Director of the Irish Sugar Company before developing a joint venture for freeze-drying food with the H. J. Heinz Company. Spurning offers to stay in Ireland, O’Reilly joined the Heinz Compnay and became Managing Director of its UK subsidiary.

He moved to the company HQ in Pittsburgh in 1971, being promoted to Senior Vice President for the North America and Pacific region. In 1973, he was made Chief Operating Officer and President and then became CEO in 1979. He became Chairman of Heinz in 1987, becoming the first non-Heinz family member to hold the post, and his guidance was seen as having helped transform the company into a major international competitor, its value increasing twelvefold from $908 million to $11 billion.

He left Heinz in 1998, but his business career continued to flourish as he took over as CEO of the Dublin-based Independent News & Media company. He also battled to save Waterford Wedgwood as chairman and was Knighted in 2001 "for services to Northern Ireland".

A remarkable Lion . . . and a remarkable man! Happy Birthday!

Tony O'Reilly's Lions Record Game by Game
1 29/06/55 Transvaal Universities   6 – 323 Lions 2T
2 02/07/55 Orange Free State   3 – 31 Lions 1T
3 05/07/55 South West Africa   0 – 9 Lions 1T
4 09/07/55 Western Province   3 – 11 Lions  
5 16/07/55 Eastern Province 20 – 0 Lions  
6 20/07/55 North-East Districts   6 – 34 Lions 3T
7 23/07/55 Transvaal 13 – 36 Lions 3T
8 30/07/55 Rhodesia 12 – 16 Lions 1T
9 06/08/55 South Africa 25 – 9 Lions 1T
10 13/08/55 Boland   0 – 11 Lions 1T
11 20/08/55 South Africa 25 – 9 B&I Lions  
12 27/08/55 Northern Transvaal 11 – 14 Lions 1T
13 03/09/55 South Africa   6 – 9 B&I Lions  
14 14/09/55 Junior Springboks 12 – 15 Lions 1T
15 24/09/55 South Africa 22 – 8 Lions 1T
16 02/06/59 Queensland 11 – 39 Lions 2T
17 06/06/59 Australia   6 – 17 Lions 1T
18 09/06/59 NSW Country 14 – 27 Lions  
19 13/06/59 Australia   3 – 24 B&I Lions 1T
20 24/06/59 Poverty Bay/East Coast 14 – 23 Lions 2T
21 27/06/59 Auckland 10 – 15 Lions 1T
22 01/07/59 NZ Universities 13 – 25 Lions 2T
23 04/07/59 Otago 26 – 8 Lions  
24 08/07/59 S/Mid Cant/N Otago 11 – 21 Lions 2T
25 18/07/59 New Zealand 18 – 17 B&I Lions 1T
26 25/07/59 Canterbury 20 – 14 Lions  
27 05/08/59 Wanganui   6 – 9 Lions  
28 11/08/59 Manawatu/Horowhenua   6 – 26 Lions 1T
29 15/08/59 New Zealand 11 – 8 B&I Lions  
30 19/08/59 King Country/Counties   5 – 25 Lions 3T
31 25/08/59 Wairarapa/Bush 11 – 37 Lions 2T
32 29/08/59 New Zealand 22 – 8 B&I Lions  
33 02/09/59 New Zealand Juniors   9 – 29 Lions 2T
34 05/09/59 New Zealand Maoris   6 – 12 Lions  
35 12/09/59 North Auckland 13 – 35 Lions  
36 19/09/59 New Zealand   6 – 9 B&I Lions 1T
37 26/09/59 BC All Stars 11 – 16 Lions  
38 29/09/59 Eastern Canada   6 – 70 Lions 1T

 

TONY O’REILLY’S LIONS TEST RECORD

1955

Test No: 43 – 06 August, Johannesburg
South Africa 22 British Lions 23

HT: 11-8 Att: 90,000
South Africa: J van der Schyff; T Briers, D Sinclair, T van Vollenhoven, S Swart;
C Ulyate, T Gentles; C Koch, C Kroon, A du Plooy, S du Rand, J Claassen,
S Fry [capt], B van Wyk, D Retief
Scorers: Tries: T Briers 2, S Swart; Cons: J van der Schyff 2;
Pens: J van der Schyff 2

British & Irish Lions: A Cameron; T O'Reilly, J Butterfield, WPC Davies, C Pedlow;
C Morgan, R Jeeps; WO Williams, B Meredith, C Meredith, R Williams,
R Thompson [capt], R Higgins, J Greenwood, R Robins
Scorers: Tries: T O'Reilly, C Pedlow, J Greenwood, J Butterfield, C Morgan;
Cons: A Cameron 4

Referee: Ralph Burmeister (South Africa)

Test No: 44 – 20 August, Cape Town
South Africa 25 British Lions 9

HT: 3-3 Att: 52,000
South Africa: R Dryburgh; T Briers, D Sinclair, W Rosenberg, T van Vollenhoven;
C Ulyate, T Gentles; C Koch, B van der Merwe, J Bekker, S du Rand, J Claassen,
S Fry [capt], D Ackermann, D Retief
Scorers: Tries: T van Vollenhoven 3, T Briers, R Dryburgh, W Rosenberg,
D Ackermann; Cons: R Dryburgh 2

British & Irish Lions: A Cameron; T O'Reilly, J Butterfield, WPC Davies, G Griffiths;
C Morgan, R Jeeps; WO Williams, B Meredith, C Meredith, R Williams,
R Thompson [capt], R Robins, J Greenwood, T Reid
Scorers: Tries: B Meredith, J Butterfield; Pen: A Cameron

Referee: Mike Slabber (South Africa)

Test No: 45 – 03 September, Pretoria
South Africa 6 British Lions 9

HT: 0-3 Att: 45,000
South Africa: R Dryburgh; T Briers, D Sinclair, W Rosenberg, T van Vollenhoven;
C Ulyate, P Strydom; C Koch, B van der Merwe, J Bekker, S du Rand, J Claassen,
S Fry [capt], D Ackermann, B Lochner
Scorer: Pens: R Dryburgh 2

British & Irish Lions: D Baker; G Griffiths, J Butterfield, WPC Davies, T O'Reilly;
C Morgan [capt], R Jeeps; WO Williams, B Meredith, C Meredith, R Williams, T Reid, RCC Thomas, J Greenwood, R Robins
Scorers: Try: J Butterfield; Pen: D Baker; DG: J Butterfield

Referee: Ralph Burmeister (South Africa)

Test No: 46 – 24 September, Port Elizabeth
South Africa 22 British Lions 8

HT: 3-5 Att: 37,000
South Africa: R Dryburgh; T Briers, D Sinclair, W Rosenberg, T van Vollenhoven;
C Ulyate, T Gentles; J Bekker, B van der Merwe, H Koch, S du Rand, J Claassen,
S Fry [capt], D Ackermann, D Retief
Scorers: Tries: T Briers 2, T van Vollenhoven, C Ulyate, D Retief;
Cons: R Dryburgh 2; DG: C Ulyate

British & Irish Lions: D Baker; G Griffiths, J Butterfield, T O'Reilly, C Pedlow;
C Morgan, R Jeeps; WO Williams, B Meredith, C Meredith, R Williams,
R Thompson [capt], RCC Thomas, J Greenwood, R Robins
Scorers: Tries: T O'Reilly, J Greenwood; Con: C Pedlow

Referee: Chris Ackermann (South Africa)

1959

Test No: 47 – 06 June, Brisbane
Australia 6 British Lions 17

HT: 6-6 Att: 17,000
Australia: J Lenehan; A Morton, J Potts, L Diett, K Donald; A Summons, D Connor; K Ellis, P Johnson, P Dunn, A Miller, J Carroll, J Thornett, R Outterside, P Fenwicke [capt]
Scorer: Pens: K Donald 2

British & Irish Lions: K Scotland; P Jackson, M Price, D Hewitt, T O'Reilly; B Risman, R Jeeps; H McLeod, R Dawson [capt], S Millar, B Mulcahy, R Williams,
A Ashcroft, K Smith, J Faull
Scorers: Tries: T O'Reilly, K Smith; Con: B Risman; Pens: D Hewitt 2;
DG: K Scotland

Referee: Bryan O'Callaghan (Australia)

Test No: 48 – 13 June, Sydney
Australia 3 British Lions 24

HT: 3-5 Att: 15,521
Australia: J Lenehan; A Morton, R Kay, L Diett, K Donald; A Summons, D Connor; K Ellis, P Johnson, P Dunn, A Miller, J Carroll, P Fenwicke [capt], R Outterside,
J Thornett
Scorers: Pen: K Donald

British & Irish Lions: K Scotland; P Jackson, D Hewitt, M Price, T O'Reilly; B Risman, R Jeeps; H McLeod, R Dawson [capt], S Millar, R Evans, R Williams,
N Murphy, K Smith, D Marques
Scorers: Tries: M Price 2, T O'Reilly, R Dawson, B Risman; Cons: D Hewitt 2,
K Scotland; Pen: K Scotland

Referee: Arthur Tierney (Australia)

Test No: 49 – 18 July, Dunedin
New Zealand 18 British Lions 17

HT: 6-9 Att: 41,500
New Zealand: D Clarke; B McPhail, F McMullen, T Lineen, P Walsh; R Brown,
S Urbahn; W Whineray [capt], R Hemi, I Clarke, I MacEwan, S Hill, R Pickering,
B Finlay, P Jones
Scorer: Pens: D Clarke 6

British & Irish Lions: K Scotland; P Jackson, M Price, D Hewitt, T O'Reilly; B Risman, R Jeeps; H McLeod, R Dawson [capt], G Wood, R Williams, R Evans,
N Murphy, K Smith, J Faull
Scorers: Tries: M Price 2, T O'Reilly, P Jackson; Con: B Risman; Pen: D Hewitt

Referee: Allan Fleury (New Zealand)

Test No: 50 – 15 August, Wellington
New Zealand 11 British Lions 8

HT: 6-0 Att: 53,000
New Zealand: D Clarke; T Diack, F McMullen, T Lineen, R Caulton; J McCullough, K Briscoe; W Whineray [capt], D Webb, I Clarke, I MacEwan, S Hill, K Tremain,
C Meads, R Conway
Scorers: Tries: R Caulton 2, D Clarke; Con: D Clarke

British & Irish Lions: T Davies; J Young, M Thomas, B Patterson, T O'Reilly; M Price, R Jeeps; H McLeod, R Dawson [capt], S Millar, R Williams, R Evans,
N Murphy, A Ashcroft, D Marques
Scorers: Try: J Young; Con: T Davies; Pen: T Davies

Referee: Cecil Gillies (New Zealand)

Test No: 51 – 29 August, Christchurch
New Zealand 22 British Lions 8

HT: 14-8 Att: 57,000
New Zealand: D Clarke; F McMullen, R Brown, T Lineen, R Caulton; J McCullough, S Urbahn; W Whineray [capt], R Hemi, M Irwin, I MacEwan, S Hill, K Tremain,
C Meads, R Conway
Scorers: Tries: R Caulton 2, C Meads, S Urbahn; Cons: D Clarke 2; Pen: D Clarke; DG: D Clarke

British & Irish Lions: K Scotland; P Jackson, M Price, D Hewitt, T O'Reilly;
P Horrocks-Taylor, R Jeeps; G Wood, R Dawson [capt], H McLeod, R Williams, R Evans, K Smith, H Morgan, J Faull
Scorers: Try: D Hewitt; Con: J Faull; Pen: J Faull

Referee: Cecil Gillies (New Zealand)

Test No: 52 – 19 September, Auckland
New Zealand 6 British Lions 9

HT: 3-3 Att: 60,000
New Zealand: D Clarke; B McPhail, T Lineen, A Clarke, R Caulton; J McCullough,
S Urbahn; W Whineray [capt], R Hemi, M Irwin, C Meads, S Hill, K Tremain,
R Pickering, R Conway
Scorer: Pens: D Clarke 2

British & Irish Lions: T Davies; P Jackson, D Hewitt, K Scotland, T O'Reilly; B Risman, A Mulligan; H McLeod, R Dawson [capt], R Prosser, R Williams, W Mulcahy,
N Murphy, H Morgan, J Faull
Scorers: Tries: T O'Reilly, B Risman, P Jackson

Referee: Pat Murphy (New Zealand)

 

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