BY HARRY WALSH
LEGENDARY former All Black Bryan Williams unveilled a plaque in Dave Gallaher Park on Saturday afternoon to officially opening the section of the shared rugby/GAA facility that will be home to Letterkenny RFC.
Earlier in the day, the former Rugby World Cup coach took part in a session involving young players and under-age coaches at Letterkenny RFC.
Another rugby legend, Malcolm Kelly who won 92 caps for Ireland, took part in an O35 game between a Letterkenny Select and Ramelton Select as part of the day’s events.
New Zealand-based writer Matt Elliott also conducted the Irish and UK launch of his new Harper Collins biography Dave Gallaher: the Original All Black Captain at the event.
Mr Williams and Mr Elliott were joined in Letterkenny by the President of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), Billy Glynn, and current coach of the Ulster team, New Zealander Mark Anscombe.
Born in the village of Ramelton, five miles from Letterkenny, Dave Gallaher emigrated to New Zealand with his family as a boy. He became the first man to captain a team referred to as All Blacks in 1905 and is credited with helping make rugby the national sport of New Zealand.
Dave Gallaher was inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame in 2011 and, in the same year, was commemorated by a statue outside Eden Park, Auckland ahead of Rugby World Cup 2011. He is commemorated by the Gallaher Shield, the premier annual club competition in Auckland, and the Dave Gallaher Trophy, which was first contested by the All Blacks and France in 2000.
Seven years ago, a party of All Blacks led by captain Tana Umaga, visited the undeveloped sports ground and named the rugby club’s pitches after Gallaher. That event, including a pilgrimage to Gallaher’s birthplace, made headlines all over the world, and since then the club have been striving to develop a ground that is worthy of their famous patron.
Bryan Williams is currently director of rugby at the Ponsonby RFC, the New Zealand club Dave Gallaher played for more than a century ago and he coached the Samoan team in Rugby World Cup 1999.