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Rugby: McCaffrey follows in dad's sporting steps

HEROES in defeat. That's the accolade earned by two members of the McCaffrey family for their exploits in two different sporting codes.

Let's kick off with Noel McCaffrey, a dashing centre half back who had a 'blinder' when the Dubs hit back from a disastrous start to almost beat Kerry in the 1985 All Ireland SFC Final.

And his son Jack's story follows a similar script as the brilliant Belvedere winger scored what will surely go down as one of the individual tries of the season as Belvo went down fighting, 17-13 to Terenure, in an exciting Powerade Leinster Schools Junior Cup First Round clash at Donnybrook last week.

Dr Noel McCaffrey, now a lecturer in Sports and Exercise Medicine at DCU, didn't dabble at rugby himself, but he was present at Donnybrook to watch Jack, and the entire Belvo squad, battle bravely against the odds before being pipped by a last minute try from Terenure super sub Adam Somerville.

Belvo, well led by forward skipper Tom Gibbons, at least had the satisfaction of leaving the pitch having given their all in a splendid contest which epitomised much of what is good about schools rugby.

And had Belvo centre Sean Baird's magnificent break ended in another first half try, then they could have won it, despite being on the back foot for almost the entire second half.

Athletic No 8 Greg Offiah, flanker Damien Butler and out-half Aidan Power, a brother of 2005 Senior Cup medal winner Liam, were among the other stalwarts on a Belvo team, who certainly possess the spirit and skill to make an impact at senior level in the future.

Meanwhile, Jack, who ran from around halfway before swerving past the last defender for his touchdown, can resume his activities on the Gaelic football field with his club, Clontarf, where he plays at midfield or centre half back on the U16s.

"Jack's an excellent player with great balance and an equally great attitude," says club mentor Willie Lillis, and those attributes have seen him be chosen on the North Dublin Development squad for the past three years.

Dad Noel was at the North Dublin helm during those years, though in future Jack will be under the guidance of another former Dubs star, Dessie Farrell.

However Noel, a fitness fanatic who once cycled to Tullamore to watch the Dubs in action, will always be close by to lend a hand to Jack, sister Sarah, who is a member of the Dubs Girls U14 football squad, and younger brothers Conor and Niall, who also play with Clontarf, where Noel is an underage mentor.

And that No 6 jersey, which Noel wore with such distinction for the Dubs, is in good hands at present as former Belvo ace Ger Brennan played in the same swashbuckling mould when leading the Dubs second-half revival, which almost sent All-Ireland Champions Tyrone tumbling in their NFL clash at Croke Park last Saturday week.

Ref Lewis shows long love of schools game

AMONG the multi-talented sportsmen spotted spectating at Donnybrook during this Schools Rugby season was Alan Lewis, the 121 times capped former Irish cricket international who also refereed at the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Lewis has always been heavily involved in Schools Rugby, making his mark as a player with St Andrew's before taking up the whistle. As an accomplished scrum-half, Lewis played on two Senior Cup teams at St Andrew's with the first one, in 1981, beating CBC Monkstown in the opening round before losing narrowly, 11-6 to Clongowes, at the next hurdle.

Lewis made an ever bigger impact the following season as his two long-range penalties helped to oust St Michael's 6-4 in their initial cup outing.

Eventual champions Blackrock defeated them 20-3 in the next round, though St Andrew's earned many plaudits for their battling display. Lewis, whose late father Ian also represented Ireland at cricket, had his rugby career cut short by a knee injury, but is one of only six players to have gained more than 100 cricket caps for Ireland.