Caelan Doris (centre) is Ireland captain for today's international rugby game against Italy. Photo: Leinster Rugby

Meath links to Ireland rugby captain Doris

Leinster player is a scion of prominent local family

Leinster rugby player Caelan Doris, named Ireland captain for today's internatioinal rugby game against Italy, is a scion of an old long-established Meath family.

His grandfather, Michael Sweetman, was from Johnsbrook House in Girley.

Before Peter O'Mahony was named captain for the Six Nations series, Doris was tipped as one of Andy Farrell's frontrunners to take over the Ireland captaincy.

The 25 year-old has had a stellar season that saw him named Rugby Players Ireland player of the year '23 by his peers, and picked on the World Rugby men's dream team of the year. Doris signed a three-year central contract to remain with Leinster until 2027.

The Ballina, Co Mayo, native has been capped 37 times since debuting in the 2020 Six Nations. He was part of the Ireland squads that won a Triple Crown in 2022, and the Grand Slam last year. He has won four Pro14 titles with Leinster. Now, with O'Mahony injured, Doris becomes the 110th player to captain the Ireland Men’s team in Test rugby.

It is no surprise that Doris is being regarded for a leadership role, as anyone who knew Michael Sweetman will testify.

Sadly, Sweetman's potential as a business and political leader was never fully realised, as he, along with 12 leading Irish industrialists were among the 118 people killed when a BEA Trident plane crashed at Staines shortly after take-off from Heathrow on Sunday 18th June 1972. The plane was bound for Brussels where the Irishmen were to have attended an EEC study tour – Ireland had just voted to join the European Economic Community.

Michael Sweetman was one of the leading lights in that referendum campaign, as Director of the Irish Council for the European Movement, on secondment from the Confederation of Irish Industry.

His father, PJ, was Meath County Registrar, and Michael was deeply involved in Fine Gael politics, certain to be a candidate for the party at the following general election. He had started his career at Coras Trachtala before becoming director of foreign trade and business policy with the Confederation of Irish Industry.

Following his death, Dr Derrick Waldron-Lynch, chairman of Athboy Community Council, issued a tribute to the Meath Chronicle, saying that Mr Sweetman's death “leaves not only a sense of national loss but also a particular sense of grief in the community in which he grew up. Michael was held in the highest esteem by all in Drewstown and Athboy with whom he came in contact. Those who enjoyed his friendship and the many parties at Johnsbrook have a memory of Michael that will always be cherished.”

Dr Waldron-Lynch continued: “It was no surprise to us that, having graduated with honours in economics from UCD, he moved successively higher and higher in the business, political and economic life of the nation. In his short life, his energy and zeal have left their mark on Ireland, particularly with regard to the European Movement and for Democracy in Education. To his widow, Barbara, his children, his parents, and relatives, we tender our deepest sympathy.”

One of those children, Rachel, is mother to Caelan Doris, while Michael's sisters still living locally are Kate in Annesbrook, Duleek, Mary Murnane in Roestown, Dunshaughlin, and Margaret Nugent in Curraha. The late archaeologist, David Sweetman, Drumree, was Michael's brother, and at the recent funeral of Margaret's husband, James Nugent SC, in Curraha, a photograph of Caelan was brought to the altar as a symbol of James' interest in sport and delight in his achievements.

He is now captaining Andy Farrell’s side for the first time, in Ireland's first home game of the 2024 Six Nations. Farrell selected an unchanged back three for the Round 2 clash with Hugo Keenan at full-back, while Calvin Nash and James Lowe continue on the wings. Robbie Henshaw is retained at outside centre, with Stuart McCloskey coming into the Ireland midfield at inside centre.

Having made his first Six Nations start last weekend in Marseille, Jack Crowley remains at out-half and is partnered by his Munster team-mate Craig Casey in the half-backs. In the pack, Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan and Finlay Bealham make up the front row, with James Ryan coming into the starting XV to partner Joe McCarthy – Player of the Match against France – in the second row. Ryan Baird is named at blindside flanker, Doris shifts to openside and Jack Conan completes the starting team at number eight. Farrell has strong options among his replacements with Rónan Kelleher, Jeremy Loughman, Tom O’Toole, Iain Henderson and Josh van der Flier providing the reinforcements in the pack, while Jamison Gibson-Park, Harry Byrne and Jordan Larmour are the backline replacements.