The University of Limerick has honoured Grand Slam-winning coach Declan Kidney with an honorary doctorate in recognition of his huge contribution to sport in Ireland over many years.
Receiving the doctorate at the conferring ceremony in the UL Concert Hall, Kidney said: “It’s a humbling experience, but fantastic. I’m really grateful to the University of Limerick for giving me this honour.
“It is a huge award for any university to bestow and I just give it my best. But I think it’s on behalf of all the players and the team.
“It’s a bit overpowering really. Rugby is the ultimate team game and to be picked out from all the players who have done all the work on the pitch and from all those in the background it is just a little bit overpowering.
“But it is, as I said, on behalf of all the players and the teams that I work with and the management that I work with that I am only too glad to accept it.”
President of the University of Limerick, Professor Don Barry, spoke of Kidney’s achievements in saying: “Declan Kidney is an individual who has reached the highest level of achievement in his chosen field of endeavour, and as a result of his successes, has brought much distinction to this region and to our nation.
“The University of Limerick, with its fine sporting tradition, is proud to recognise and honour the contributions of Declan Kidney to Irish rugby and to the enhancement of Ireland’s international prestige.”
Declan Kidney is one of the most respected and decorated coaches in Ireland with a career full of success.
As a mathematics and career guidance teacher at Presentation Brothers College, Cork, he coached school teams to four Munster Junior Cups and four Munster Senior Cups.
He coached the Irish Schools to a Triple Crown victory in 1993 and the Ireland Under-19 side to a World Cup victory in 1998, with a side that included current senior internationals Brian O’Driscoll, Donnacha O’Callaghan and Paddy Wallace.
He became coach of Munster in 1998 at a time when a number of distinguished foreign coaches were daunted by the task and, as players and coaches underwent the transition from amateur to professional status, he laid the foundation for the most successful period in the long and distinguished history of Munster rugby.
After a brief period as assistant coach to the Irish senior side and head coach at Leinster, Kidney rejoined Munster as coach in 2005, leading the team to a Heineken Cup win that season.
In 2006, he was named the Philips Sports Manager of the Year and on May 24, 2008 he coached the Munster squad to victory in the Heineken Cup once again.
In July 2008, Kidney was appointed as Ireland head coach. By March 2009, he had brought the team to Ireland’s first Grand Slam in 61 years, in a sensational climax at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.
In the conferring citation read by Professor Stephen O’Brien, Professor of Applied Mathematics at UL, the attributes of a successful coach were fittingly described.
He said: “It takes a special kind of person to withstand the frustrations and pressures of constant review, and it takes a truly remarkable individual to emerge from many years of intense public scrutiny as a widely acknowledged, highly successful coach who enjoys the respect of players, officials, fans and the media. Our honouree, Declan Kidney, is such a man.”
The conferring ceremony was attended by Declan’s wife Anne and youngest son, the 15-year-old Cian. His other son, Kevin (19), had to ironically miss out as he was busy training with the Munster Under-20 squad.
Representatives and legends of Irish rugby; Irish and Munster squads, IRFU officials and rugby clubs from across the country were also present to congratulate one of the most successful and modest mentors in Irish rugby history.