Liam laps it up with the Lions ‘Down Under’

The Four Lions at the test.
The Four Lions at the test.

Lurgan rugby fanatic Liam McGuigan was making waves in the ‘Sea of Red’ that invaded Australia for the British and Irish Lions tour.

Liam got the opportunity to follow the Lions in Australia after winning a competition organised by Microsoft and Qantas Airways.

As well as taking in the three-Test series, Liam along with Englishman Ben Stack, Welshman Andrew Donovan and Scotsman Scott Johnston, battled it out against local rugby fans in the ‘Mane Event’ series, competing in random challenges ranging from sheep shearing to sun cream rubbing.

On Saturday, prior to the final test in Sydney, the four Lions fans went head to head with the Aussies in the series decider at Bondi Icebergs. The challenge, which involved pie scoffing and inflatable mascot paddling, was nail bitingly close but the first team to hoist their flag was the Lions team, making them the overall winners of the Mane Event series.

Of his rugby experience Down Under, Liam, a Gaelic footballer with Clan Na Gael, said: “It was some trip. Every day just got better than the last even though we thought it couldn’t.

“It was a no expense spared trip. We were staying in the same hotels as the Sky Sports crew.

“The atmosphere at the games was mindblowing, especially the third Test. It’s something I’ll never experience again.

“The only downer on the trip was that Brian O’Driscoll wasn’t selected for the final test. It would have been great to see him on the pitch, but at the same time he’s still a winning Lion.

“I met him at the airport before the first Test. I spoke to him for a couple of minutes and got a photo taken with him. He congratulated me on winning the competition. He was a really nice guy, but I expected nothing less.”

He continued: “The Sexton try which effectively won the series for the Lions will live with me forever.

“For me the highlight of the trip was a gala dinner in Melbourne that all the Lions past and present were at. I couldn’t believe the four of us had a table at it. We were rubbing shoulders with the likes of Paul O’Connell, Warren Gatland and Jeremy Guscott.”

Along the way Liam picked up a few new skills thanks to the challenges set for him and his teammates during the ‘Mane Event’.

He said: “I was picked as captain of our team which was nice. Perhaps they were hoping for the luck of the Irish.

“One of the challenges that stood out was the sheep shearing. It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

He continued: “I made some great friends through the trip. I’ll definitely be keeping in touch with Andrew (the Welshman from the team).

“It wasn’t just about the three tests. It was about the journey along the way.”