Having announced on Twitter that his arm, which he broke on the Summer Lions rugby tour was “all good”, Munster legend Paul O’Connell’s bride-to-be can rest assured her giant hubby will be able to carry her over the threshold after they tie the knot today.
A French affair, the private wedding reception of the Limerick rugby hero to Emily O’Leary takes place in the beautiful rustic village of Auch, a stone’s throw from the city of Toulouse.
Talk of the overseas nuptials of “one of their own” was high on the agenda in Limerick, where some lamented missing the opportunity to give their local hero a personal send-off.
“I would have loved it if I could have been standing outside a church here in Limerick with my daughter and my three sisters, and their daughters. We love Paul, and sure we’d have loved to give him a good ol’ cheer. We’re all mad to see what the bride will be wearing too,” said one Limerick woman yesterday.
Paul O’Connell in a Munster jersey has always been as important to Limerick people as hurling currently is.
His former boss Shane Gleeson, who owns Gleeson’s Spar on Catherine St, had fond memories of the youngster he once employed as a shop assistant.
“He was supervisor of the shop when he was underage,” he said, tongue in cheek, “and he did it without people realising it”.
“He ran the shop like a sewing machine, with pure diligence, and that’s obviously what happened on the rugby pitch too.”
He was a gentleman to boot, and intelligent too, Shane said, adding that he could see a future career for the second row as a TV pundit or businessman.
“I think we have even yet to see the brightest of him actually,” Mr Gleeson said.
Details of the O’Connell -O’Leary nuptials were kept locked up ‘ruck-style’ yesterday, with the event being described as a “private, small, family gathering”.
However, a large crew of O’Connell’s former and current Munster and Irish teammates are expected to attend, including Ronan O’Gara, who retired from the game last May.
Paul and Emily’s son Paddy, 3, will act as pageboy as his parents say ‘I do’.
Paul, 33, from Drombanna, and Emily, from Clarina, have been together for 13 years.
The couple’s families have travelled to Auch for the event, including Paul’s parents, Michael and Shelagh; his brothers Justin and Marcus; Emily’s parents, Pat and Keave; brother Paul and sisters Stephanie and Danielle.
Emily’s previous work in Murray Ó Laoire architects, Limerick, is believed to have inspired the venue for their wedding — rumoured to be Auch’s splendid St Mary’s Cathedral.
After today’s ceremony, the newlyweds will travel to Corsica for their honeymoon.
Emily’s bridal wear and her bridesmaids’ outfits were being kept under wraps yesterday.
O’Connell, who is always relaxed off the pitch, in a far remove from his tenacious, lion-esque on-field persona, asked Emily to marry him last year, shortly before he was made an honorary Freeman of Limerick City.
Today, part of his freedom gets kicked into touch, but he’s still sure to be happy with the result, as he swaps the captain’s armband for a wedding band.
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