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Art by Nevin Spence's sister to raise cash for rugby charity

BY NOEL McADAM

The sister of tragic rugby star Nevin Spence has painted a portrait of Brian O'Driscoll which is to be auctioned in aid of injured players.

Emma Spence, who lost two brothers and her father in the slurry pit accident on the family farm near Hillsborough, has completed portraits of almost 20 Ulster and Ireland rugby players.

But the Irish Rugby Union Players Association has offered to buy her painting of O'Driscoll – the former Ireland captain – and sell it at its annual awards ceremony in Dublin on May 8.

Emma, who was hospitalised after trying to rescue her dad and siblings, said she did not think O'Driscoll is aware of the portrait.

She has also painted former Springbok Ruan Pienaar and Ireland winger Tommy Bowe and the O'Driscoll painting had appeared in the Leinster Gallery in Dublin.

"It started when I decided to do something special for Nevin's 21st birthday in April 2011," Emma told the Sunday Times.

Nevin's portrait, which is in the family home, led to Emma's first exhibition at Ravenhill in November the same year.

Nevin (right), who won the Young Player of the Year award in the same year, was 22 when he died with his father Noel and his older brother Graham.

Proceeds from the sale will go to the Irish Rugby Football Union charitable trust for injured players.

Omar Hassanein, chief executive of the association, said: "The fact that it's a picture of Brian, who's probably the country's greatest player, makes it extra special."

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