It came as a surprise to us to learn that ‘The Rose of Tralee’ was used four times as Ireland’s national anthem at the 1987 Rugby World Cup.
An article by Malachy Clerkin in last Saturday’s Irish Times on the national anthem being played before rugby games, told the story of how it came about through interviews with Irish stars of the time, Neil Francis and Trevor Ringland.
An IRA bomb a month before the Rugby World Cup in 1987 was the catalyst for changing Ireland’s anthem from ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ to a song more noted as a celebration of womanhood than a nationalistic battle cry.
Three Irish internationals, Nigel Carr, Philip Rainey and David Irwin were caught up in an IRA bomb which killed Lord Justice Maurice Gibson. The blast ended Nigel Carr’s rugby career.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Trevor Ringland, a former Unionist politician and Ireland international, said the The Soldier’s Song wouldn’t have felt appropriate to be played at the World Cup in New Zealand to some of the players after that happened.
“We were standing there, and I actually didn’t know what song was going to come on. And then it was The Rose of Tralee…I remember thinking, ‘God, you wouldn’t really lay down your life for The Rose Of Tralee, would you?” he told Malachy Clerkin.
“It was the worst compromise of all time,” Neil Francis said.
“It was played before all four games and I just stood there totally unmoved each time. I didn’t know the song, I hadn’t ever heard it, I knew none of the words. None of us did. We just stood there in stony-faced silence and waited for the game to start,” Francis said.
You can read more of Malachy Clerkins’s highly entertaining article HERE