Connacht head coach Eric Elwood was bestowed with the Paul Harris Fellowship award at a special ceremont on Monday evening at the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway.
Galway Salthill Rotary President Gerry Purcell introduced the evening with a presentation on the different roles the Rotary organisation plays across the world and explained the origins of the Paul Harris Fellow.
Paul Harris was the founder of Rotary in 1905 with a simple view that was to become Rotary’s mission statement, ‘Service above Self’, and the Fellow award that bears his name is awarded to individuals who have served their communities and countries with distinction.
Gerry went on to say that Connacht coach Eric Elwood was ‘the perfect candidate’ to receive this prestigious award and that his nomination had fulfilled the four central tenants that govern Rotary decisions: is it the truth?, is it fair to all concerned?, will it build goodwill and better friendships?, and will it be beneficial to all concerned?
He also noted that this was only the second time in the Galway Salthill Rotary Club history that the award, which is recognised across the world, had been conferred on a non-rotary individual.
Galwegians and Connacht great Paddy Reilly also spoke and recounted tales of Eric’s upbringing in Mervue, playing for Galwegians and his time with Lansdowne, before Eric himself said a few words.
“I’m just an ordinary ‘Joe Soap’ from Mervue who played a bit of rugby and now does a bit of coaching and I am very humbled to accept this award,” he said.
“It was always my ambition to play for Galwegians, Connacht and Ireland and they are some of my proudest moments, getting those caps.
“I would like to pay tribute to (former Connacht head coach) Michael Bradley for the opportunity to be assistant coach under him, to Gerry Kelly and the Connacht Branch for believing in me and special thanks to my management team and the players, who are committed and dedicated and show huge character through the highs and lows of professional sport.”
The presentation concluded with a short speech from immediate past District Governor Tom Murphy who added to Eric’s words by stating that ‘we are all just ordinary Joe Soaps’, that each of Rotary’s 1.2 million members are just regular people doing a bit extra for the greater good.
He added that the Paul Harris Fellow was the highest accolade Rotary can bestow on a person and that it is the same award that has been awarded to Presidents, royalty and world leaders alike and is recognised in each and every one of Rotary’s 32,000-plus branches worldwide.