In Pictures: Ulster's Lions heritage celebrated at Belfast City Hall
Many of Ulster and Irish rugby’s greatest ever players gathered together at Belfast City Hall on Friday night to celebrate the proud heritage of Ulster stars past and present selected to play for the British and Irish Lions.
The Ulster Lions Legends Gala Dinner, organised by Ballymena Rugby Football Club and sponsored by Arthur Cox, brought together eighteen of the twenty-two surviving Ulster players who have donned the famous red jersey.
Some of Irish rugby’s all-time legends, from the great Dr Jack Kyle, Dr Syd Millar and Willie John McBride, to more recent players like Trevor Ringland and Tyrone Howe, were amongst the 400 guests in attendance.
Ballymena RFC stalwart and veteran of six Lions tours, Syd Millar, explained the reasoning behind the event; “We at Ballymena Rugby Club thought it was important to mark the proud involvement of Ulster rugby players down the years who have gone on to represent the British and Irish Lions.
“Touring with the Lions is the biggest honour a player can achieve in his career. It is a huge privilege to be selected as part of a team that is made up of the best players the four home nations have to offer. There is something very special about putting together a squad of players, most of whom have never played together before, to take on one of the best sides in the world.
Guests at the Gala Dinner watched video footage of some of the most memorable moments in Lions history - from Jack Kyle’s dominance of the All Blacks in 1950 to Willie John McBride’s famous ‘”99” call in South Africa in 1974.
In the afternoon prior to the Gala Dinner, a ‘Sport to Business’ master class was held at Riddel Hall in Queen’s University, during which Lions legends discussed how they have been able to transfer rugby skills into the business arena.
Syd Millar spoke in depth about what the many qualities in the rugby team and how that transfers to a Board of Directors, while Willie John McBride gave a fascinating glimpse into how his experience of motivating players in the changing room enabled him to get the most out of his colleagues in the workplace.
Dr Millar said the whole day had been a great success; “It has been great to mark the achievement of Ulster players, past and present, who have gone on to play rugby at the highest level. The Gala Dinner was a fantastic opportunity to meet old friends and share stories from our escapades to the far corners of the globe. We may not be as athletic or as fit as we used to be, but the craic remains the same."