The day I bought a pint for a rugby legend and made an eejit of myself!

ollie-campbell-phil-orr-and-willie-duggan-1982-390x285
Three legends: Ollie Campbell, Phil Orr and Willie Duggan

I can let my mind drift away from the damned virus every now and then.

And I let it go wherever it wants.

A little while ago, it drifted back to the mid 1980s. And, inevitably, rugby.

It was, I think, just a couple of years since Phil Orr’s retirement from the Irish team.

And it was the night before the English match in Lansdowne Road.

Town was packed and the atmosphere was brilliant as it always is in the city on the eve of a big sporting occasion.

I was in the Horse and Tram on Eden Quay with a few work colleagues. It was one of our locals. We had several.

We were having our few Friday night scoops – there was a bunch of English supporters in the corner. The place was lively.

The door opened.

And Phil Orr came in.

Phil Orr!

At the time, he was the world record holder for the number of international caps for a prop. Having been a prop, he was one of my heroes.

He stood there for a couple of seconds.

I went over to him and introduced myself.

“Hi Phil,” I said. “Paddy Murray. I work with the Herald. But I’m a ‘Rock boy!”

I thought I was being really funny and clever.

“ Would you like a pint?” I asked him.

He said he would. So I ordered him his pint, gave it to him and returned to small talk.

“How are things since retirement?” I asked.

And I asked him what had him in the Horse and Tram.

“I was in Whiskey Corner for a reception,” he said. “And I decided to walk up the quays. And every pub I go into some f***in’ eejit like you buys me a pint.”

At least he was smiling.

We chatted for, oh, the guts of a minute.

Then he had a question.

“Do you know those English lads over there?” he asked me.

I told him I didn’t.

“Introduce me anyway.”

So I went over to the English lads and asked them if they’d like to meet Phil Orr.

“PHIL ORR?” they said. “WOW. Lads. It’s PHIL ORR!”

Phil walked over to them.

And I heard one of them ask.

“Would you like a pint Phil?”

He turned around and winked at me.

I met Phil some years later at a rugby charity function I had a hand in organising.

I told the story and asked him if he remembered.

He didn’t. But he said it was probably true.

It was true.

And when I left the Tram, as we called it, that night, Phil was an even bigger hero in my eyes than he had been before I walked in.

One of the all-time great props.

A great sense of humour.

And a gentleman!

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