David Humphreys

Most capped Irish outhalf and European cup winner

The red hand symbol of Ulster means many things to many people. In sporting terms, it is the proud and public emblem of both the Tyrone gaelic football and Ulster rugby teams.

Dublin has faced many invasions from red hand warriors on raiding missions to Croke Park and Lansdowne Road. On most occasions there have been attempts to fend off the invaders, except on January 30, 1999, when the whole country got behind the rugby team led by one of Ireland's great sportsmen of modern times.

David Humphreys is the most capped outside half ever in the history of Irish rugby. And whether his jersey has been emblazoned with the shamrock or the red hand, his performances have inspired and enthralled others.

49,500 were at Lansdowne Road on that crisp winter's day in the last year of last century when Humphreys and his team pushed aside the challenge of French club Colomiers to become kings of Europe with a 21-6 victory in the European Cup final.

As ever, Humphreys was in the thick of things. He unleashed all his skills with deft passes, jinking runs, skilful body swerves, and that most accurate weapon in his armoury, place kicks that regularly soared between the posts to break the spirits of opponents.

Who among the thousands of Ulster followers on that road to European success will ever forget Humphreys' breakaway try against Stade Francais at Ravenhill. Head down against the prevailing breeze, he sprinted up the stand side to the roar of 15 000 supporters and even before he touched down, the French side knew it was beaten.

Humphreys was well immersed in rugby football long before the advent of the professional  game. Educated at Ballymena Academy, he studied law at Queens University and Oxford where in the annual colours game against Cambridge in 1995 he scored all of his team's points in the 21 - ­19 defeat.

He came back to Ulster at the start of the 1999 season at a time when players began to reap financial rewards from rugby and has remained a pivotal part of the squad since then. Wearing the Ulster colours he scored 37 points, a record in the Heineken Cup, in Ulster's 42-16 win against Wasps in 2002.

Before announcing his retirement Humphreys' international career had reached 72 caps and a personal tally of 560 points scored since his first senior appearance against France in 1996.

Humphreys has always remained thankful for what he has achieved and never fails to acknowledge others when he has been honoured.

‘I'm totally reliant on all the players around me. It's the reflection of the way they play, and the reaction of the crowd. I suppose I'm lucky to be the person in the right place at the right time,’ he said on receiving an MBE in 2004.

‘I have had some outstanding moments in the game, but without doubt the European Cup will be indelibly imprinted in my mind. That will always be the defining moment in my career.’

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