All Blacks Visit to Dave Gallahers Birthplace
November 9th 2005
Following an invitation from Letterkenny RFC, the 2005 All Blacks made an historic visit to Letterkenny and Ramelton on November 9, 2005 to commemorate the life and times of Dave Gallaher.
The proposal for a visit to County Donegal, birthplace was made directly to the chief executive officer of the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) by a Letterkenny RFC representative at their headquarters in the Wellington by a club representative.
Those involved in the initiative believed that an historic visit by the premier rugby side in the world to the Ramelton birthplace of Dave Gallaher would catch the popular imagination in both Ireland and New Zealand. It would be particularly appropriate on the centenary – to the month – of his achievements as captain of the first New Zealand team to be known as the All Blacks.
Their motivation was two-fold: to ensure that a forgotten Donegal legend was honoured in the land of his birth and to provide a much-needed boost for the sport of rugby in County Donegal.
And so it happened that on a wet November afternoon, a throng of international media, the New Zealand Ambassador to Britain and Ireland, Ireland’s Honorary Consul to New Zealand, the President of the Irish Rugby Football Union and the President of the NZRU came to be huddled against the cold alongside Letterkenny RFC’s windswept pitch as a Donegal day expired into darkness.
One hundred years after the first ‘Original’ Al Blacks had conquered the home nations, the successors to the black jersey bearing the same silver fern were paying tribute to their predecessors by once again turning the rugby establishment on its head. A few weeks after visiting County Donegal for the first time, the 2005 All Blacks would complete one of the most resounding grand slam of victories in history.
Wailing sirens signalled the arrival of the sport’s most famous team. A luxury coach slid down the winding track to the club rooms and six All Blacks, including their modern day captain, emerged to name the new home ground of the Letterkenny RFC.
An explosion of flashbulbs immortalised All Black enforcer, Jerry Collins, as a bottle of champagne vapourised on a specially inscribed rock and christened the ground Dave Gallaher Memorial Park.
In the town of Letterkenny, more than a thousand crammed into the Institute of Technology’s main sports hall to catch a glimpse of the superstars. Later, hundreds braved the cold outside to watch them train with local kids. From there, it was on to Ramelton where they received yet another remarkable welcome from a crowd of hundreds, before they stepped inside the birthplace of their Originals captain. It was history in the making.
While TV cameras beamed images of Donegal around the world and reporters filed their copy and broadcasters sought to capture a remarkable day. All concurred that the All Blacks had completed an emotional pilgrimage.
“The reception has been totally overwhelming…totally overwhelming. When I look at Letterkenny’s small pitch and changing rooms, I think of the many All Blacks who started their careers in similar circumstances.”
– Brian Lochore, former All Black captain and New Zealand sporting legend
“Gallaher gave his life defending our country and its values and so we are representing all the kiwis back home. We hold him dear to our hearts.”
– Conrad Smith, All Black centre.
“It was one of the great days. Dave Gallaher means a lot to me and this is where it all started. It’s why we hold Ireland in such high regard. It’s where the All Black jersey originates from.”
-- Tana Umaga, All Black captain.
“It was, without question, the warmest sporting moment of the year. Tana is still raving about it!”
- Brendan Gallagher nominates the visit as one of the Rugby Highlights of 2005 in The Daily Telegraph
“Dave Gallaher, the Irishman who became the first All Black Captain, is honoured at last.” - The Evening Herald
"Dave Gallaher is arguably the most significant rugby figure to be born in Ireland. Many good people in Donegal have worked hard so that he might be properly remembered a century after his team revolutionised rugby. It is right that Ireland has now recognised one of its own great rugby men. "
- The Sunday Times