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Rugby Star Followed In His Dad’s Footsteps

by Jimmy Rhatigan

It was perhaps no surprise that young Kilkenny lad, Gary Halpin went on to be a star on the stage of world rugby.

For as a wee lad Gary and his brothers and sisters ate, drank and slept rugby as their dad, Tom was king of underage coaching at the Kilkenny Rugby Club he loved.

Tom brought his wife Ann and family from Dublin to Kilkenny when he was appointed laboratory manager in 1967, at the famous Smithwick, Kilkenny Brewery, founded by the Smithwick family of Kilcreene Lodge.

The Halpin family then lived at Drakelands on the peripheral of Kilkenny, the cradle of classy hurlers.

But with Tom preaching the oval ball gospel, those following in his illustrious footsteps simply had to be eyeing the then Lansdowne Road and many other famous rugger venues around the globe.

Tom’s coaching methods were infectious. He wasn’t one to carry a clip board and belt out orders from a side-line.

He got stuck in, led by example and his young players reaped the rewards.


Gary Halpin

Gary was a big man who matched muscle with skill and had carved a niche in the game for himself during his schoolboy years.

He went on to play in the 1991 and 1995 World Cups, winning 11 caps and scored a memorable try against the All Blacks.

Rugby was his focus and he was proud to be a life member of Kilkenny Rugby Club.

He was multi-talented and represented Ireland at the 1987 World Athletics’ Championships.

He had been taught hammer throwing at Kilkenny City Harriers Athletic Club where he was a popular member.

He was awarded a scholarship to Manhattan College where he set college and meet records.

No pun intended, but as a brilliant performer he went on to hammer all opposition as he amassed a string of national and international crowns.

After retiring from rugby, Gary became a teacher and taught for 20 years at St George’s College, Weybridge and The Oratory School near Reading.

He later returned to Ireland and served as head of boarding at Cistercian College, Roscrea.


He was a devoted family man and loved life with his wife, Carol and children Bentley, Leonie and Lenka.

He became suddenly ill at his home in Thomas’s Square, Kilkenny early this week and was rushed to hospital where he passed away at the age of 55.

He is survived by his wife and children, brothers Patrick, John and Mark and sisters Barbara and Bethann as well as Bentley’s fiancée Beckie.

Gary was one of a number of dual players from Kilkenny CBS to go on to sporting fame.

He was prop for the Irish team while then local publican Ned Byrne won an All-Ireland hurling medal and rugby international caps for Ireland.

Ned’s first cousin, Willie Duggan, another past pupil of the CBS, holds the record for the most rugby international caps won at No. 8.

Gary Halpin’s prop rugby career included stints with the London Irish, Ireland and Leinster, fantastic achievements after schooling with Kikenny Rugby Club at Foulkstown.

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