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Jack Kyle: The first name in Ulster sport's hall of fame

By Steven Beacom

Jack Kyle was the original Irish rugby superstar. The First. Number one forever more.

That script was written in 1948 when, just one year after making his international debut, Kyle's dazzling skills inspired Ireland to their first Five Nations Grand Slam success.

If you want an idea how monumental an achievement that was for rugby on this island, the team didn't achieve the Grand Slam again for another 61 years!

Appropriately Jack was there in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium to see it.

Players such as Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara and Tommy Bowe rightly received acclaim for their glorious triumph in 2009, though all in that side and those before them and since who have put on the green shirt will always tip their hats to fly half John Wilson Kyle and his pals who climbed Everest first.

Kyle has inspired Irish rugby from 1948 on and will continue to do so until the end of time with others wishing to follow his lead.

Tributes have flowed after the sad announcement of Jack's death yesterday.

It is no surprise they have been warm and heartfelt because, from Auckland to Antrim, the Queen's graduate - a gentleman off the pitch and genius on it -was respected, renowned and revered and in his later years recognised time and time again for his extraordinary talent.

When judging panels came together to induct a fitting and deserving hero into a sporting Hall of Fame, the name of Dr Jack Kyle came to the fore.

Back in 1996, Jack became the first sports star to be inducted into the Belfast Telegraph's Hall of Fame at our annual sports awards. In 2008 he was the first Irish player to be inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame.

Two years later he was the inaugural winner of the IRFU Ulster Branch's Hall of Fame award. No coincidence. First every time.

Just like back in 2002 when he was named Ireland's greatest rugby player ever.

Through the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards I had the privilege of meeting Jack on several occasions... the final time just a few months ago when he was kind enough to travel to the city with his daughter Justine for a picture to launch the 2014 awards.

Be it spending a few minutes in his company or an hour. as I was fortunate to do that day, you always felt better for it. I'm sure there are many, many others who could say the same. What a gift to have. Jack Kyle was just that type of special person... pleasant, sincere and humble - a genuinely nice guy.

And a giving one too as his incredible work after rugby as a doctor and humanitarian in Africa illustrated.

Jack's generosity was also evident when, at our 2011 Sports Awards, it gave him great joy to present fellow Ulster, Irish and Lions legend Mike Gibson with his Hall of Fame prize.

Gibson was delighted to have Kyle alongside him on stage. Mike appreciated the greatness of the man.

Our sympathies to Jack's family, including his children Caleb and Justine, the author of a fascinating book called Conversations with My Father. It offers a wonderful insight into her dad... the wonderful Jack Kyle, the original and the best.

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