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Leinster’s Jamie Heaslip came from good Limerick rugby stock

By Aidan Corr
IRISH rugby has lost one of its most valuable assets this week with the announcement that Leinster’s Jamie Heaslip will not play again.
The results of a second operation on his back brought the news that his career as a player had, sadly, come to an end.
Having won almost every honour open to him, the 95-times capped number eight epitomized the value of hard work and dedication over a career that spanned almost three decades.
Jamie’s father, Richard, is a native of Limerick. We were both part of the Class of 1962 at St Munchin’s College and Richmond was an outstanding athlete from day one. He went on to distinguish himself with the college junior and senior rugby cup sides and we were both part of the last class to come through the doors of the old Henry Street home of the Diocesan College.
Richard was a noted all-rounder, a particularly strong swimmer and memories remain of him diving from the parapet of the Ardnacrusha Bridge that brushes the bank of the Hydroelectric Scheme during the summer holidays.
From Janesboro in Limerick City, Richard Heaslip was quickly snapped up by Shannon RFC and had a season or two in the black and blue jersey of the Parish club before he followed his dream within the Irish cadets, rising through to the rank of Brigidier General.
With a backgound like that, it was not surprising that Jamie would follow his footsteps and there were a lot of character similarities between the two.
Jamie won 95 caps for his country making his international debut in the 61-17 win over the Pacific Islands in November 2006 and captaining the national side on 13 occasions. Of his 95 Ireland caps he played the full 80 minutes on 72 occasions illustrating his value as both a player and a leader to the national team. His last appearance in the green shirt was against Wales in the 2017 RBS 6 Nations Championship in Cardiff. He scored 13 tries for his country including the World Rugby Try of the Year against Italy in 2016.
Jamie Heaslip is one of the most successful players in Ireland’s professional era. A member of the 2009 Grand Slam winning side he was also a key player in the Championship winning teams of 2014 and 2015. He played his part in securing Ireland’s first ever victory over the Springboks on South African soil in 2016 and just a couple of months later featured prominently in Ireland’s historic first victory over New Zealand in Chicago. He played at two Rugby World Cups featuring in all 10 of Ireland’s games at the 2011 and 2015 tournaments.
A two time British and Irish Lion he made 5 Test appearances across the 2009 and 2013 tours of South Africa and Australia. At provincial level he won three Heineken Cups, an Amlin Cup and three Pro12/Celtic league titles with Leinster and was shortlisted for World Rugby Player of the Year in both 2009 and 2016.
Let’s face it, there were times when we felt regret that the younger Heaslip did not show allegiance to his Limerick roots and declare for Munster! He certainly had the qualities that we associate with the red jersey . . . although his contributions to the blue will never be forgotten.

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