Irish internationals lining out for League of Ireland sides have become a common sight in recent years with the likes of Damien Duff, Colin Healy, and Jack Byrne on show but crossing from an entirely different sport is a more exclusive club.
European rugby player of the year in 1979, Tony Ward was considered a classy practitioner with the oval ball but proved equally adept with the round version in the domestic league.
Ward earned 19 international rugby caps, making his debut in 1978 at 23 to help Ireland win the Five Nations Championship that year, scoring a total of 38 points, a record for a debutant. He also played for the British and Irish Lions and was a member of the famous Munster side that defeated the All Blacks.
But the all-round sports star also displayed his talent on the football pitch, playing for both Shamrock Rovers and Limerick United in the League of Ireland.
As a schoolboy he lined out for Rangers AFC in Dublin and for Ireland at Under-15 level. In 1981, Ward was in the Limerick United eleven for a UEFA Cup tie against a Southampton side featuring Kevin Keegan. A 3-0 home defeat was followed by a creditable 1-1 draw at the Dell.
A season later he helped the team win the FAI Cup under future Ireland manager Eoin Hand. Ward went on to become a respected rugby pundit and journalist but maintained his ties to football and in 2016 was named honorary president of Limerick FC.
The Dubliner is not the only man to cross that particular sporting divide. Tommy Moroney won five League of Ireland titles with Cork United in the 1940s before making 148 appearances for West Ham. He was also part of the Irish team that famously defeated England 2–0 at Goodison Park in 1949, becoming the first foreign side to beat them at home.
Moroney played rugby for both Cork Constitution and Munster but missed out on the chance to represent Ireland with the Five Nations Championship suspended because of the Second World War.
Illustrations by Instruct, a Manchester-based studio that works closely with the National Football Museum. instruct.studio