Saturday was a great day for Young Munster RFC. On the same afternoon that the Cookies overcame Cork Constitution on the Greenfields pitch, they made their own legendary lock Paul O’Connell an honorary life Vice-President of the club.
More than 200 people were present at the Young Munster v Cork Constitution pre-match function, including many of Paul O’Connell’s former team-mates, as the Limerick club honoured him.
It was an occasion of mixed emotions at Tom Clifford Park, however, as Young Munster stalwart Willie Allen passed away on Friday. In his acceptance speech, Paul acknowledged Willie’s contribution to the club and to himself personally.
During his speech, Paul emphasised the importance of local clubs in the development of young players and thanked many of the ex-coaches and players for their support and assistance throughout the years.
The former Munster, Ireland and Lions captain (pictured above with current Young Munster RFC President Tony Cusack) went on to recall some of the memorable (and often humorous) moments of his career with Young Munster, and the special bonds that will forever exist with him and club rugby in Ireland.
He mentioned and thanked other clubs, with specific reference to Cork Constitution, for their contribution and development of players, who furthered their own careers with the Irish provinces and the national team.
Paul’s good friend, Donncha O’Callaghan, was frequently mentioned during this section of the speech, and all of the stories generated a lot of laughter from the assembled crowd.
Ireland’s RWC 2015 skipper used these stories to emphasise the incredible friendships that are created through club rugby, even if the players come from different clubs. He also reminded the Cork Con delegation in attendance that even though the O’Connell family have strong links with Cork rugby, Sunday’s Well is their club of choice, of which, all the O’Connell family are members!
In true Paul O’Connell-style, he signed autographs and posed for photographs for the huge crowd that seemed to appear from nowhere once the formalities had finished.