Rugby referee Nigel Owens with Andrew Lacey and his family
IT MAY have been his first Christmas Day away from his family in his 46 years but renowned rugby referee Nigel Owens felt right at home in Limerick thanks to the hospitality of one local family.
The Lacey brothers, John and Andrew, who reside in Annacotty opened their homes to the Welshman on Monday before Munster’s clash with Leinster in the Guinness Pro 14 game at Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day.
“It was the poshest Christmas dinner I’ve ever had - I had everything including a prawn cocktail starter,” Nigel joked to the Leader.
“It was all home made cooking which was lovely I’ve got to say.”
Amazing the welcome ones get in the rugby family. Made my Xmas away from home enjoyable. Thanks for the welcome and cheese cake https://t.co/4L99XaxK1T— Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens) December 25, 2017
While he has travelled to Limerick for the December 26 fixture twice in the last three years, this was his first time not celebrating Christmas dinner with his family.
“My partner and I made Christmas dinner for my dad, Geraint, on Saturday at my house before I left and we had family over which was nice.”
When news filtered through that the popular referee was going to be on Limerick soil for Christmas Day, he was inundated with requests on social media to spend the special celebration at homes, not only in Limerick but across the country.
After enjoying a tasty dinner with international referee John Lacey and his parents Andy and Angela, Nigel then made his way to John’s brother Andrew’s house, located closeby. Andrew - who is a member of An Garda Siochana and is the manager of UL Bohemian’s first XV – along with his wife Alie and their three sons Evan, 13, Cillian, 9 and Andrew, 3 were thrilled with the Christmas Day visit by the highly respected referee.
Lovely table set up by John Lacey fair play. A lovely Christmas dinner just had here in Limerick. Thankyou for the welcome. pic.twitter.com/Alnn4pQpPF— Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens) December 25, 2017
A game of snooker to finish of a lovely Christmas day. Thankyou all for making me so welcomed at your homes today. pic.twitter.com/Kc5Ux3FaDS— Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens) December 25, 2017
“I had lovely homemade cheesecake with a nice cup of tea over there so I had about four desserts altogether on Christmas Day,” Nigel joked.
“When you are away from your family on Christmas Day it’s not easy, but for John and the Laceys to welcome me into their home was a lovely gesture.”
As for the game itself, Nigel, who stayed in the Strand Hotel, described the atmosphere in Thomond Park as “wonderful especially in the second half when Munster were getting back into the game.
“You could feel the intensity of the game and the atmosphere going up another level.”
That was one of the great games of @PRO14Official rugby. Huge credit to Munster & Leinster on playing a brilliant game of rugby. It was a pleasure to referee it and credit to all the players for making it so. The game of rugby was the winner today.— Nigel Owens MBE (@Nigelrefowens) December 26, 2017