Rugby legend Ronan O’Gara will be conferred with the Freedom of Cork City today during a ceremony which will be streamed live to the world.
Hundreds of guests are expected to line out alongside the former Ireland and Munster legend, and his family, including his wife, Jessica, and their five children, for the ceremony in City Hall this afternoon.
The award, which will be presented during a special meeting of the city council, is the highest civic honour which can be bestowed by the council upon a person who has distinguished themselves and is deemed worthy to have their name enrolled on the List of the Freemen of the city — a custom which dates to the 14th century.
Lord Mayor Cllr Des Cahill said he felt it fitting that the city would honour O’Gara in this way for his immense contribution to rugby at all levels over quarter of a century — from school and club level in Cork, to province and international level, where he was capped 128 times for Ireland — just five behind Brian O’Driscoll.
Six flags representing all the teams he has played with during his playing career —Pres, Cork Con, UCC, Munster, Ireland and the Lions — will fly outside City Hall during the ceremony.
Now Paris-based where he coaches with Racing 92, O’Gara, who also writes for the Irish Examiner, said he was “humbled and honoured” when councillors supported the mayor’s proposal in February.
“Thanks to the people of Cork who have always backed me. Proud of where I come from,” he tweeted at the time.
Although born in San Diego in California, O’Gara was raised on the southside of Cork, and attended Presentation Brothers College where he played schools rugby.
He later played with Cork Constitution before being capped by Munster and Ireland. He is still the leading scorer in the Heineken Cup with 1,365 points during a 16-year career with Munster.
Mr Cahill said Cork City has always had a great regard for its sportsmen and women and that it has been some time since a sports personality had been honoured with the freedom of the city.
The ceremony will be preceded by a private reception, hosted by the Lord Mayor, for O’Gara and close family members in the mayoral chambers.
Once the mayor reads the citation, O’Gara will be presented with a silver casket, containing the Freedom of the City scroll.
The ceremony is expected to include a panel discussion, chaired by rugby legend, Donal Lenihan, a specially commissioned poem, and a musical tribute from soprano, Cara O’Sullivan.
O’Gara will later today join a long list of distinguished Freemen of Cork, including Adi Roche, Roy Keane, Sonia O’Sullivan, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Niall Toibín, Peter Barry, Albert Reynolds, John Major, Jack Lynch, Peter Barry, Mary McAleese, and US presidents John F Kennedy and Woodrow Wilson.
Following the success of the live streaming of Rob Heffernan’s historic Olympic medal presentation from City Hall last November — a broadcast viewed by some 20,000 people — today’s ceremony will also be streamed live on www.corkcity.ie/tv from 3pm.
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