Brendan Mullin profile: One of the last great amateurs of Irish rugby who then made a name in the finance world
23rd September 2021
Brendan Mullin was a shining light in a dark era in Ireland’s rugby history.
A classy centre capable of splitting defences, he was the country’s leading try scorer until Brian O’Driscoll came along and broke his record in 2003.
He and O’Driscoll both attended Blackrock College as boys, before going on to star at the top end of the game.
However, while the younger man was at the vanguard of Ireland’s success after the sport went professional in 1995, Mr Mullin retired after the quarter-final defeat to France at that year’s World Cup as one of the last great amateurs.
An accomplished hurdler in his youth, he had the skills and pace to take to international rugby well and he earned his first cap against Australia in 1984.
He went on to be an integral figure in the Triple Crown and Five Nations Championship success of the following spring in his first season.
The young centre’s first international try was an iconic one as he charged down a clearance kick by England’s Chris Martin and pounced on the loose ball to score as Ireland claimed the Triple Crown on a famous day.
Injury ruled him out of the 15-15 draw with France that denied Ireland the Grand Slam, but handed them the title.
He would go on to score 16 more tries for Ireland, but that early taste of success would not be followed as Ireland struggled to compete during a fallow period when the game moved slowly toward professionalism.
Two years later he was a starter in the Irish team at the inaugural World Cup.
When there was a stand-off between the players and the IRFU before the 1991 tournament, Mr Mullin was at the forefront of negotiations as a players’ representative, determined to ensure their rights were protected.
He played in that tournament but retired from the international game during the 1992 Five Nations campaign, citing work commitments.
In November 1994, he returned to the fold and would score his 16th and 17th international tries in the 1995 championship before signing off in South Africa.
Mr Mullin was also selected to play for the British and Irish Lions on two occasions, in 1986 and 1989.
During the 2000s, Mr Mullin became the chair of London Irish and his son Gavin is an Ireland Sevens international.
While still an Irish international, Mr Mullin began his finance career in 1989 in Davy Stockbrokers, where he worked mostly on the private client side of the business – which involves managing relationships with wealthy investors as much as investing their money.
In 1996 Davy’s Ballsbridge rivals Goodbody, where his Blackrock College schoolmate Roy Barrett was a young managing director, poached Mr Mullin to help develop its corporate business.
His stint at Goodbody was short-lived, however. Mr Mullin struck out on his own in 1999 with the formation of Powerscourt Capital Partners, a boutique private clients business he set up with Nick Gallagher and Trintech CEO Cyril McGuire.
With the market for investment management growing rapidly in Europe’s hottest economy, it was a lucrative time to be advising the growing wealthy classes in Dublin.
Within five years Mr Mullin’s efforts had attracted the attention of Quinlan Private, the property investment company founded by Derek Quinlan.
During his tenure with Quinlan, Mr Mullin personally got involved in investment deals, taking stakes in technology companies such as Zamano, which floated on the stock exchange, providing a nice pay day.
Yet again, though, Mr Mullin got itchy feet.
By 2007 he was off on his own again, founding a €200m private equity fund.
He ultimately turned up as managing director of Bank of Ireland Private in January 2010, a position he held until July 2013.