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John O’Shea RIP

Posted: April 25, 2024
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News this week has confirmed the passing in Australia of John Patrick ‘Tess’ O’Shea, aged 83.

After playing his early rugby for Newbridge, Welshman John made 213 appearances for Cardiff (1963-70), plus he featured in 12 games for the Pirates of Penzance & Newlyn RFC, who he captained in 1970/71, having first played for the club the previous season. He also made one appearance for Cornwall, which was at Redruth against France ‘B’ on the 18th April 1970 (lost 14-13).

Besides his club appearances for Newbridge, Cardiff, and the Pirates, plus the famous Barbarians, prop forward John also won five caps for Wales (1967/68), and he toured with Tom Kiernan’s British Lions to South Africa in 1968. Indeed, he played in the first Test and became the first ‘Lions’ prop to score two tries in a game when he crossed twice against Rhodesia. He was also considered highly amusing, the life and soul of the party, and the servants at each hotel where they stayed roared with laughter at his antics.

As some will recall, however, John became the first ever Lion to be sent off in a match for foul play. It was in the game against Eastern Transvaal, dubbed the ’Battle of Springs’, in which he had punched an opposition player who had apparently targeted Lions’ scrum-half Roger Young. On leaving the field John was pelted with oranges and struck in the face by a spectator. There were though two pleasing outcomes, firstly that the Lions at least won 37-9, and secondly John was immediately reinstated following an enquiry after the match.

Back to his ‘Pirates’ connection, after John first joined the club, he in part gave young hooker John Kimberley, who was a student at the Humphry Davy Grammar School, the thrill of a lifetime, as his props in first team games against King Alfred’s College and Exeter in April 1970 were none other than John O’Shea himself and ‘Stack’ Stevens, which must have been special, to say the least.

Work commitments would ultimately take John to Australia. However, he commented that he had found in the Pirates an immediate welcome to the Duchy, and it was a pleasure to be part of the team, if only for too short a time. He also said: “The colours of red, white and black of the Pirates will blend with the two blues of Newbridge and the Cambridge blue of and black of Cardiff, to make the one great colour, which is the colour of rugby.”

John’s first wife Judy would settle in Mousehole, from where she became an active member of the Pirates’ youth section, and their son, Richard ‘Rick’ O‘Shea, played for the Pirates and later became a rugby commentator and qualified doctor.

Condolences at this time are expressed to all family members and friends of John, who will remember him as being popular, respected, and very much a great character.