Ray McLoughlin dies, aged 82
One of Irish rugby's all-time greats Ray McLoughlin has died at the age of 82.
The tighthead prop, who once held the record caps total for his country after playing 40 times for Ireland and captained the team eight times, passed away on Saturday after a long illness.
A native of Ballinasloe who attended Garbally College, McLoughlin was Connacht's first Lion in 1966 and was part of the successful 1971 tour of New Zealand before suffering a tour-ending injury.
He played his club rugby for UCD and Blackrock College, spending a couple of seasons with Gosford and London Irish in England and he was part of the famous 1973 Barbarians team that downed the All Blacks in Cardiff, with Gareth Edwards scoring his unforgettable try.
McLoughlin is pre-deceased by his wife Geraldine and has four children, Lynne, Karen, Jennifer and John.
The Lions' official website, lionsrugby.com, has paid tribute to Mr McLoughlin saying: "Considered one of the finest scrum operators to have ever graced the game, the renowned Irish tighthead toured with the Lions in 1966 and 1971 during his illustrious career.
"McLoughlin’s first Lions experience saw him play in both winning Tests in Australia and the first Test in New Zealand, as well as 14 provincial fixtures, before injury cut his Tour short.
"He was selected again five years later for the 1971 Tour to New Zealand, but injury cost him further Test caps after sustaining a broken thumb in the famous Battle of Canterbury.
"The England and Lions hooker and captain John Dawes once said McLoughlin’s presence was sorely missed in the forward pack of the Carwyn James-coached team. He said: 'Ray w
as the wise head, the intelligentsia of forward play. He and Carwyn would spend hours together, Carwyn trying to learn from Ray the intricacies of forward play.'
"Taking place just a week before the first Test, the Lions defeated Canterbury 14-3 in Dunedin in what has gone down in legend as one of the most brutal games in the tourists’ history.
"But while McLoughlin’s absence from the front row after his Tour-ending injury was a blow to the Lions, his scrum knowledge proved crucial in the Test series that followed.
"He put his personal disappointment behind him and was credited with playing a vital role in tutoring the forwards who helped the Lions secure a historic series win over the All Blacks.
"In fact, John Taylor – who toured with McLoughlin with the Lions in 1971 – later described the Ireland legend as “one of the best technicians the game has ever known”.
He also scored two tries for the Lions, with the first coming in the 11-8 opening Test win against Australia in 1966 and the second coming against Waikato on the 1971 Tour."