Irwin Howie to bring back memories | Sunday Observer

Irwin Howie to bring back memories

 Irwin Howie with his family
Irwin Howie with his family

Irwin Howie the rugby magician will be in town soon. He was a star performer on the rugby field who steered Kandy SC to the Cup final after nine long years.

Kandy SC first entered the Cup final in 1954 where they lost to CR & FC. They entered the final again in 1955 and in 1969 under the leadership of the late Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa. Their next Cup final came in 1978 under Irwin Howie where they lost to Havelock SC under Anton Benedict.

Howie was a dynamic and cheerful rugby player. Fans in the late 1960s and 1970s were star-gazing at the brilliant performances Irwin produced.

Howie started rugby at Trinity College and played in all age groups. He started as a scrum-half at the age of 15 and ended as one of the best stand-offs. At senior level, he was well known for his kicking. He used to score through drop goals from any angle and he was also good in punts and cross kicks. Irwin first played for Trinity College under Shafie Jainudeen in 1969, the year Trinity won both the Bradby games 8-0 and 9-3. The team was made up of Y.S. Ping, H.C. Gunasekera, Mohan Samarakoon, K.R. Tennekoon, Anura Madawala, Iswan Omar, R.G. Panabokke, Shanthi Kumar, Tikiri Marambe, Irwin Howie, P. Nugawela, Sam Samarasekara, Nihal Marambe, F. Prins and Shafie Jainudeen.

In 1970, Irwin played under Sam Samarasekara. That year too, both Bradby games were won by Trinity College 19-3 and 16-12. In 1971, Irwin played under Y.S. Ping and some of the players in that side were Nihal Marambe, C Wadugodapitiya, Niroshan de Silva, Lalith Ramanayake and Jeffry Yu. That year there was only ‘one-leg’ of the Bradby, due to JVP insurgency, where Royal College won by 22 points to nil.

Irwin won his Colours in 1969 along with H.C. Guanasekara, Tikiri Marambe, R.G. Panabokke, Y.S. Ping, Mohan Samarakoon and E.R. Tennakoon and the ‘Rugby Lion’ in 1971 with Tikiri Marambe and Y.S. Ping. He also played cricket, mainly in the ‘A’ team.

Howie was a regular member of the combined schools team while being at Trinity. While in school he also played for Dickoya MCC, the area where his father was planting and gave off his best. Seeing his ability, CH &FC hooked him to Maitland Crescent and after a short stay, he crossed over to CR & FC and played for a few years and helped the club to win several League and knockout tournaments with his knowledgeable play.

In 1975, when E.W. Balasuirya was the president of Kandy SC, M.E. Marikar (EW’s good friend), arranged Irwin’s arrival back to Kandy, where he played and enjoyed his rugby. He first played in 1975-‘76 under Jadi Dissanayake, 1977 under Sunil Munasinghe and 1978 and ‘79 were his years of captaincy.

Irwin coached this team with the assistance of Sarath Embuldeniya and took the side to the Clifford Cup final. Irwin’s Cup final team had players in the calibre of S. Munasinghe, S. Serasinghe, N. Malagamuwa, L. Dullewewa, T. Jayasundara, D.H. Rajaguru, H. Marikar, J. Grey, A. Manchanayake, N. Ananda, S.U. Swan, A. Vought, G. Ariyaratne, I. Uvais, C.Y. Ching jnr, and the fighting Kandy SC went down to Havelocks SC led by Anton Benedict.

Irwin also led the side in 1979 which was almost the same side as the previous year. For his superb performances Irwin was called to lead the national team in 1978 at the Rugby Asiad held in Malaysia that had three Kandy SC players in D.H. Rajaguru, Sunil Munasinghe and Nimal Malagamuwa. He also led the Up-Country team the same year in the Capper Cup encounter. He then took to coaching and he took on St. Anthony’s College. Thereafter he was invited to take over Trinity rugby after which he led the country in 1978 and later went on to coach Dharmaraja College.

Irwin was a polished player who could catch the ball from any angle and his style of play was excellent with his “dummying”, scissor pass and reverse passes.

Howie, is expected on a holiday with his wife Yvette Solomons in the coming month and looking forward to meet all his friends.