Posted: 18th April 2016

Lunch with Gordon D’Arcy

On Saturday April 9th a crowd of some 250 gathered in the Marker Hotel in Dublin for an event organised by the Clongowes Foundation to pay tribute to Old Clongownian Gordon D’Arcy (OC’98) and raise some money for the Alberto Hurtado Bursary Fund…

When the hard-pressed MC, Ambrose O’Sullivan (OC’78) eventually managed to get the good natured crowd of alumni, parents and staff members to still themselves he outlined the running order for the afternoon which, he assured us, would finish in good time for the another running – that of the Aintree Grand National – and he was a good as his word. Introducing the first speaker, Ireland Rugby Coach, Joe Schmidt, Ambrose outlined the relative paucity of international caps for Clongowes men before the turn of the century when Gordon D’Arcy finally arrived on the international scene, to be followed in short order by the Kearney brothers, Rob and Dave as well as Fergus McFadden. Joe was most entertaining as he regaled us with stories from his own back pages, especially his days as coach to Leinster and then Ireland. His reminiscences of his early days at Leinster provoked some mirth but Chatham House Rules apply and so we must draw a veil; you had to be there.

Fr Bruce Bradley, deputising for the Rector Fr Michael Sheil said Grace Before Meals after which we fell to with a will and made merry. He returned to the rostrum after the main course to say a few words about Gordon D’Arcy’s career from his heady days as hooker at Under Thirteen Level through his Junior Cup campaign at out-half to his Senior Cup career that lasted three years (a rare distinction) during which he played on the wing or, eventually, almost always at full-back. He noted that Gordon is not only an outstanding rugby player but also an exceptional ambassador for his school, his province and his country, who is always willing to involve himself in good causes and helping others, as evidenced by his appearance at this function.

Fr Bradley also spoke of the Alberto Hurtado Bursary Programme (AHP) by way of introducing Rhetoric student, Sean McMahon, one of the current AHP students and, ‘with no disrespect to all the others, one of the most outstanding since the scheme began’. He observed that the AHP ‘is our gesture in aid of removing barriers to getting a place in Clongowes’, saying that ‘we cannot function in unawareness of the kind of world we live in’. Fr Bradley thanked everyone present for their support of this truly indispensable dimension of our work in a school with the values to which we publicly aspire (Full text of Fr Bradley’s remarks here).

Sean spoke eloquently of the opportunity that the bursary has afforded him calling it the biggest turning point in his life to date. He outlined how he has done his best to fully immerse himself in college life through rugby and music as well as by being a House-leader, a Kairos leader, a Minister of the Eucharist and a member of the College Academy. He praised the involvement of the likes of Mr Martin Wallace and Mr Steven Gray and also thanked his parents for the sacrifices that they have made and for the example they set for him growing up. (Full text of Sean’s remarks here).

Disarmingly honest

The main event of the afternoon then followed as Gordon D’Arcy took to the stage in the company of former Leinster teammate and Irish Times sports journalist, Liam Toland, who walked him through his professional rugby career from the earliest days, when he refused an offer to travel to South Africa with the Ireland team in favour of taking his Leaving Certificate, through his first cap against Romania in the 1999 Rugby World Cup to his second coming with both Leinster and Ireland in the early years of the new century. Gordon was disarmingly honest as he recounted the travails of his early years as a professional player, when all did not go to plan, and of the difficulties he had in adapting to the lifestyle of a professional sports man.

Towards the end of the afternoon, Liam vacated the stage to allow Gordon address the audience directly and to pay tribute to his time in Clongowes and in particular to the many people – coaches and others – who had supported him along the way. Like Sean he thanked his parents and family (his parents and siblings were in the audience) for the many assistances they had given him as well as paying tribute to his wife and business partner, Aoife and their infant daughter Soleil (who could not be present as one was babysitting the other).

The event was brought to a close when the Headmaster, Mr Chris Lumb thanked Gordon and presented him with a painting of Clongowes. Mr Lumb also thanked Joe Schmidt (who had been obliged to depart earlier) and Sean McMahon for his outstanding speech, as well as everyone who was involved in the success of the venture and those who help to the make the Alberto Hurtado Bursary Programme one of the jewels in the Clongowes’ crown.

In addition to the funds raised from a raffle and a silent auction, the profile elevation of the Alberto Hurtado Bursary programme was a clear result of this tribute event. The bursary is currently completely funded, year on year, through philanthropy and the generosity of alumni, parents, friends of Clongowes and our Jesuit community. With an eye to the future there is consensus around the principles of the Clongowes Bursary programme and the intrinsic value of securing this Jesuit mission in perpetuity. To achieve this goal, a current Foundation focus is to establish an endowment fund, the interest from which will sponsor students in perpetuity.

Declan O’Keeffe, Head of Communications

Those who attended the event received a commemorative booklet, which contained a tribute to Gordon D’Arcy penned by Richard McElwee (OC’05) Leinster Rugby PRO & Sports Enthusiast. The text of Richard’s article may be read here.

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