Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Whole new ball game for legal eagle BillySeptember 20, 2012 - 2:24pm
Billy Glynn’s rugby playing career may have ended prematurely, but the newly-elected 125th President of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has still managed to ensure his place in the annals of Connacht rugby.
The popular Tuam native is synonymous with the game in Connacht, having steered the province through the transition to professionalism, and led the fight to prevent the team from being disbanded.
The former Revenue Sheriff and solicitor looked set to achieve international sports success in his own right before a severe neck injury ended his playing career and almost left him paralysed. The incident failed to stifle his passion for sport, a lifelong love that was nurtured in his schooldays in Ballinasloe.
“My brothers all went to St Jarlaths in Tuam, which was a Gaelic football school, but my parents decided to send me away to school and it transpired that I went to Garbally College in Ballinasloe,” Billy recalls.
“Of course, that was a rugby school so that was how I started playing rugby. It was a school that was big into athletics as well and that was big part of it, bigger than rugby in fact.
“I played rugby on the school team and the Connacht Schoolboys and I did a lot of athletics. I was Irish senior triple jump champion and I competed in the sprints and in the long jump. I was second in the long jump in the All-Ireland championships the same year I was first in the triple jump.”
He continued to pursue his passion for rugby and athletics while studying Law in UCD, and he would go on to represent UCD, Ireland U-23’s and the Irish Universities teams in rugby. His Irish Universities rugby team became the first Irish team to ever defeat a Springboks team.
He also represented UCD and the Irish Universities in athletics, and was a member of the Ireland team that travelled to the European Student Games in San Sebastian, competing in the triple jump, the long jump and the relay.
He recalls that he carried his gear bag into college every day along with his books and joined his teammates on the training ground at every opportunity.
“Sport was wonderful. That was the way you did it. You were ready at the drop of a hat.”
He continued playing rugby with Galwegians and Connacht after returning to Galway, but a promising sports career was destroyed by a spinal cord injury he sustained in a game.
“I got a very serious neck injury and I was paralysed from the neck down for 48 hours. Fortunately, I came out of it, but it brought my career to an end. I did try again later but I used to get terrible problems with my neck.”
He went into shock and barely had time to assimilate the possibility that he would never walk again, before the first signs of movement returned. Luckily, his spinal cord had only been stunned and he recovered.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.