The latest Scotland rugby player to reach the magic milestone of 50 caps has dedicated the achievement to a late uncle who inspired him to take up the game.
As he stood savouring a 12-8 victory over Ireland at Murrayfield which keeps alive hopes of an RBS Six Nations Championship success, Al Kellock, below, now captain of Glasgow Warriors but once of Edinburgh, admitted his mind was partly rooted in family matters.
Young daughter Kate had made a banner proclaiming ‘Daddy’s 50 caps’ to all around her in the main grandstand and that was uppermost in the second row’s mind.
But so, too, was the memory of his uncle, Dave Drysdale, a former Stirling County player who had guided Al towards rugby.
“It was an emotional day especially at the anthems when I caught sight of my wife and little girl,” said Kellock. “But there is not a game where I stand listening to the anthems that I don’t think about my uncle. Occasions like a 50th cap are all about family.
“My mum and dad are great supporters who drove me everywhere to games especially when I was younger, but without my uncle, who died when I was 14, I wouldn’t be standing here.
“Dave was the rugby player in the family. I was thinking about him before my first game and also before my 50th.
“Everything I’ve done on the pitch I owe to him.”
Unusually for a 50th cap, Kellock’s came from off the bench, the forward taking the field as a second-half substitute and helping shore up the win.
He is the 34th Scot to reach the half century and he added: “I was delighted to get on, especially on the back of such a good performance by the team.
“It seems such a long time ago (at home to Australia in 2004) that I made my debut and my first 13 caps came from out of the Edinburgh club.
“When I moved to Glasgow I sat on the 13 mark for a while before moving forward again and hopefully there are more to come.
“When you are young you always assume you have a lot more caps and having reached 50 I take nothing for granted but still feel I have plenty to offer.”
Among the proudest moments in the career of the 31-year-old was when he helped Scotland to home-and-away victories over Australia.
In 2009 Scotland squeezed home 9-8 at Murrayfield and last year he was part of the team which won 9-6 ‘down under’.
“I suppose it was a bit like the Australia games in not letting them (Ireland) score at the end.
“The Australian matches saw us soak up a lot of pressure.
“Our win at Croke Park three years ago falls into the same category and while I’d rather win games by scoring four tries, as we did against Italy recently, winning ugly can be satisfying because of the character that has to be shown.
“With the amount of possession Ireland had they were always going to make line-breaks but the way we scrambled back to put in tackles was fantastic.
“The ball was slightly wet and that favours a defence.
“But we also got in Irish faces and forced them to do things they maybe weren’t comfortable doing.
“It showed that defence wins Test matches. I have been involved in plenty games over the year where you don’t have the lion’s share of possession but you win the game.”
Kellock’s opportunity to follow fellow second-row forwards Scott Murray and Nathan Hines into the ‘50 cap club’ came with eight minutes remaining which meant he was at the eye of the storm as Ireland tried to salvage a victory that looked theirs for the taking almost throughout.
Some, in the near capacity crowd, could barely look as Scotland were penalised on their own line as the clock ticked towards the red mark but Kellock was pre-occupied with other matters. “As soon as the whistle goes for a penalty you have to react.
“Our backs were screaming at us forwards to get back on the line.
“We did and dealt with the last attack although really it was down to the line speed of the defence in forcing the error which ended the match.
“As well as defence both our line-out and scrum went well.
“Ireland have a terrific driving line-out and to take that away from them the best policy is to steal as much ball as possible in the air.
“Our scrum was probably the difference, though. If we had gone under pressure there we wouldn’t have won. Massive credit to our props especially.”
Now Scotland await Wales at Murrayfield with Kellock confident of further success.
“Of course we can beat Wales with similar territory. Statistics at the end of the day mean nothing, but we want more possession and to control it better, then we can play a bit more.
“We want to be playing in the right half of the pitch and at times we were kicking without getting over halfway.
“There are things to work on but I don’t have a perfect game in my head.
“In fact, there isn’t such a thing as a perfect game.”