The University of Limerick has awarded an honorary Doctor of Science to former Ireland captain Paul O’Connell. Dr. Paul O’Connell is the 100th recipient of an honorary doctorate from UL since 1990.
Following a glittering career with both Munster and Ireland, Paul O’Connell was this afternoon conferred with an honorary doctorate at the University of Limerick in front of 1,000 invited guests.
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and Munster players, both past and present, were in attendance at the ceremony, along with Paul’s family and friends.
Reacting to today’s honour, O’Connell said: “I am delighted, I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. I had a look through the list of previous conferees – it is great company that I will be keeping. I had a lovely phone call from (former Munster and Ireland head coach) Declan Kidney this morning. I was at his conferring previously.
“When you grow up in Limerick, the University ends up being a big part of your life, even if you don’t go here as a student. To get appreciated by your home university is something that is very special.”
He added: “I have played in teams all my life, great Munster and Irish teams and to be getting individual honours sometimes when you play a team sport is a bit strange and it can be a bit embarrassing because you are never in that situation, it is never about the individual when you are part of a team.
“So days like this, when you are put out there on your own are a little embarrassing, but a brilliant honour at the same time.”
The former Munster and Ireland captain has had a long association with the University, one that extends beyond rugby. Initially excelling at swimming as a teenager, the Limerick native trained in the UL pool before studying Computer Engineering there and later serving on the board of the UL Foundation.
He has been a director of the UL Foundation since 2011. In that role in 2012, he gave generously of his time to front the Paul O’Connell Golf Outing, which raised in excess of €;50,000 to fund scholarships for students participating in UL’s Access Programme. The scholarships enabled six students from socio-economically disadvantaged areas of Limerick to study degree programmes at the University.
In choosing a career in professional rugby, much of his provincial training was based out of the UL Arena with O’Connell going on to play for Munster on 178 occasions, winning two European Cups (2006 and 2008), three Celtic League titles (2003, 2009 and 2011) and a Celtic Cup in 2005.
The 36-year-old also captained his country in a fruitful international career that saw him win 108 caps, play in four World Cups and win two Six Nations Championships, one Grand Slam and four Triple Crowns.
Commenting on today’s ceremony, UL President, Professor Don Barry, said: “The awarding of a University of Limerick honorary doctorate is an occasion when we get the opportunity to honour those who have inspired, who have led with courage and passion and who have made great contributions in their field of endeavour.
“Much thought, consideration and deliberation goes into deciding who is worthy, except when it is a real-life superhero, and particularly when his name is Paul O’Connell.
“Today I am very proud that UL bestowed upon Paul our highest honour. He was already an important member of the UL family, but today he accepted a place in the history of this institution.”
This year saw O’Connell sign a two year with current European champions Toulon. The second row is currently sidelined due to a hamstring injury sustained against France at the recent Rugby World Cup.