Two weeks ago on a bright Sunday morning, I took the DART railway from Lansdowne Road, which skirted beautifully around sun-kissed Dublin bay, before arriving at Blackrock, a sleepy seaside town that overlooks the bay.
A town synonymous with Irish Rugby, the home of Blackrock College RFC, one of the oldest senior rugby clubs in Ireland, established in 1882, the club that produced so many great players, including Fergus Slattery, Brian O’Driscoll, Alain Rolland, and one William Patrick Duggan.
Little did I think that just a short time later, I would be reflecting Willie’s entire life, after hearing the news, last Monday, of his sudden and untimely death at the age of sixty-seven.
Willie Duggan was a larger than life character from the amateur and wild days of rugby, he was as hard as nails, played 41 times for Ireland, and toured New Zealand with the 1977 British Lions playing in all four tests against the All Blacks.
His first cap for Ireland came in the 12-9 defeat of England at Lansdowne Road, in the 1975 Five nations.
Duggan always maintained that he was never sent off. “The ref came towards me and said would you mind leaving the field”, I said “Sure not at all, I was b******d anyway”
He scored two tries for his country and captained Ireland in his final international, a 32-9 defeat to Scotland at Lansdowne Road in 1984.
A heavy smoker during his playing days, once when running on to the field at Twickenham, when Ireland were playing England, he handed his cigarette to referee Alan Hosie before kick off.
Willie had what he himself called a pathological dislike of training.
His one concession to fitness being a breakfast of half a dozen raw eggs on the morning of a match.
“I always had the philosophy that if you took 30 players out for a night, and made sure they were p****d before they got to bed at 3am, then got them up at 8am, trained the bejasus out of them, then you would know who was up to lasting 80 minutes in an international”
Willie lived and worked in Kilkenny, where he ran “Willie Duggan Lighting Ltd” the shop he took over from his father, and with his passing one very bright light has certainly been extinguished.
There was never a dull moment with Willie Duggan, particularly when he was in the company of his great mate Maurice Ignatius Keane, and the pair of them became “legends” on the 77 Lions tour for their riotous behaviour, where “Moss” Keane earned the nickname “Rent-A-Storm.
With “Moss” having left us in 2010, the two of them are now reunited, which is desperately sad for us but heavenly for them.
Rest in peace boys.