Ken Goodall

Ireland No 8 who changed codes
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The Independent Online

Kenneth George Goodall, rugby player: born Leeds 23 February 1947; married (one son, one daughter); died Londonderry 17 August 2006.

Had Ken Goodall not opted to cash in on his fame in 1970 shortly after getting married and join Workington Town rugby league club, then the rugby union world might have been heralding the Irishman as the greatest No 8 in the game in the early Seventies rather than Wales's Mervyn Davies.

The City of Derry No 8, who learned his rugby at Foyle College, made an immediate impact on the senior game and won the first of his 19 Irish caps as a 19-year-old in the win over against Australia in 1967. He had already given the Wallabies a taste of what was to come by helping Ulster draw 6-6 with the tourists a month earlier and then helped Ireland to beat them again in Sydney five months later.

A tall, rangy, ball-playing forward, the English-born Irishman was first capped while studying at Newcastle University and never looked back after that winning start in the green jersey. By the end of his first season as a senior player he had played for his province, Ulster, his country, Ireland, and the Barbarians, in two games on their Easter tour of Wales.

Having established himself as a regular in the Irish side, and been championed as the best No 8 in world rugby on home soil, he could have expected to make the British & Irish Lions side to tour South Africa in 1968. Unfortunately, pressure of exams forced him to turn down an initial offer to travel with Tom Kiernan's side, but he did answer a late call to travel as a replacement.

The tourists had only taken one specialist No 8 with them and they took the unusual step of inviting him to take over the Welsh outside-half Barry John's place in the tour party when he broke his collarbone. Goodall finally got into a Lions jersey for the game against Eastern Transvaal, but never played again after breaking a bone in his hand in a game marred by a mass brawl and the sending-off of the tourists' Welsh prop John O'Shea.

His finest moment on a rugby union field came in the Five Nations game at Lansdowne Road on 14 March 1970, against a brilliant Welsh side chasing a second successive Triple Crown. Wales crumbled and Goodall rounded off the victory with a solo try from near the halfway line in what was to be his final game in the 15-a-side code.

Fielding a loose clearance kick, he chipped over Barry John's head and regathered the ball, charged past Gareth Edwards and J.P.R. Williams and crashed over for a try that brought the 50,000-plus crowd to its feet. Tom Kiernan's conversion made it 14-0 to the Irish and the Welsh were sent packing.

"Ken was a bloody nuisance that day - he virtually won the game single-handed for Ireland. It was an amazing try he scored, but he was excellent in every other phase of the game," admitted his opposite number Mervyn Davies.

Goodall became the biggest Irish rugby union convert to rugby league since Robin Thompson joined Warrington in 1956. His transfer rocked the corridors of power at the Irish Rugby Union and led to him being ostracised by his former code for quite some time.

His career in rugby league was brief and unremarkable. He played for three seasons before knee and back injuries forced him to quit and eventually return to Northern Ireland. After a period as a chemical engineer, he went back to his former career, teaching, and was vice-principal of Faughan Valley High School in Derry until his retirement a few years ago.

Rob Cole