Northern Ireland

Tributes paid to Irish rugby 'titan' Syd Millar following death at 89

Syd Millar. Picture: Ballymena Rugby Club
Syd Millar. Picture: Ballymena Rugby Club Syd Millar. Picture: Ballymena Rugby Club

IRISH rugby legend Syd Millar will be remembered as a "titan" of the sport, following his death at the age of 89.

A former player with Ulster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions squad, Mr Millar died on Sunday, his former club Ballymena RFC said in a statement.

Mr Millar hailed from Ballymena, and started his career with the club before going on to international level and eventually becoming president of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) in 1995.

He also served as chair of the International Rugby Board between 2003 and 2007.

"It is with deep regret that the Board of Directors of Ballymena RFC inform members of the passing of highly esteemed member Syd Millar," a club spokesperson said in the statement posted to social media.

"On behalf of everyone connected with Ballymena RFC we extend our sincere condolences to his daughter Lesley, sons Peter and Johnny and family."

IRFU chief executive Kevin Potts said the Ballymena man was a "titan of rugby union, both in Ireland and globally", adding that in latter years he was "a leading administrative figure who helped reshape the global game".

Among those to pay tribute was sports journalist Jim Gracey, who wrote in a post: "A colossus of rugby. God rest."

Mr Millar made his debut with Ireland in 1958, and turned out for the Lions across three tours before retiring as a player in 1971.

He went on to coach Ireland during their 1987 Rugby World Cup campaign.

Other positions held by Mr Millar in his post-playing career included president of the Ulster Rugby Union, and chair of the British and Irish Lions.

In 2019, Ulster Rugby named a new pathway at Belfast's Kingspan stadium after Mr Millar, in recognition of his" incredible contribution" to rugby.

A spokesperson for the British and Irish Lions said in a statement: "There aren’t many people who have given as much to the Lions, or our sport, as the great Syd Millar.

"Three tours as a player, one as a series winning coach and another as a manager. He also served as a committee member, selector and chairman. It all adds up to an amazing nine tours over six decades. All our thoughts are with his family and friends. He will be greatly missed."

An Ulster Rugby spokesperson said the organisation was "deeply saddened" at Mr Millar's death, adding: "His contributions and legacy will forever be etched in rugby history."