Stars to line out for glitzy O’Gara testimonial

When the waiting list is longer than the guest list, it’s fair to assume we’re in wish-you-were-there territory.

Throw in that rugby legend Ronan O’Gara’s sold-out celebration dinner in London this Thursday is sprinkled with the stardust of sporting luminaries, top entertainment figures, and high fliers from the world of business, and add the fact that the testimonial banquet takes place less than 48 hours before the Six Nations meeting of England and Ireland, then it’s little wonder the soiree is the talk of the town.

Organisers have confirmed that all 870 tickets have been sold for the banquet at London’s Hilton Park Lane, with a waiting list of around 250 willing to pay between £3,000 and £5,000 (€3,670 and €6,115) for a table of 10.

The Ireland Fund of Great Britain — providing financial support to organisation that care for the vulnerable and elderly Irish in the UK — is the chosen charity to benefit from the proceeds of the evening.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan will represent the Government at the banquet. Red carpet watchers will get a flavour of the evening to be hosted by The X Factor’s Dermot O’Leary, with entertainment to come from Damien Varley, Hermitage Green, and a once-off perform-ance from Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance troupe.

Ex-Irish and English Grand Slam and World Cup winners will join former Ireland and Lions manager Donal Lenihan in honouring one of the game’s great number 10s.

O’Gara amassed 128 Irish caps and is the country’s record points-scorer with 1,083 in green, and is the fourth highest points scorer in international history.

In the red of Munster, O’Gara’s feats have moved into the realm of fable — 2,625 points, a double Heineken Cup winner, and nominated by the ERC as the most valuable overall player in the first 15 years of European rugby competition.

Grand auction items form a centrepiece of the testimonial banquet, with the Ireland Fund of Great Britain again a substantial beneficiary.

From a guitar signed by the four members of U2 to O’Gara’s own favourite — a beautifully framed montage of jerseys from the best backline he played with or against — organisers are anticipating a healthy level of interest in the items up for grabs.

A holiday for four in a luxury villa in Phuket, Thailand, a Cheltenham tour of Jackdaws Castle before heading to Prestbury Park, the signed tour bag from Rory McIlroy’s win at the Australian Open and a signed and framed Manchester United jersey from Sir Alex Ferguson offer a sample of the delectable items that will be on offer.

For those keen on O’Gara memorabilia, there’s a specially commissioned ROG 10 car number plate and the boots he wore for his 100th Irish cap against the Springboks in 2010.

With over 30 wow items in the brochure, it may be exciting for guests, but it won’t get rowdy — the auction will be hosted by the 6ft 10in former second row Martin Bayfield, also formerly a policeman.

The O’Gara testimonial committee, chaired by Cork-based property developer Michael O’Flynn, features key business leaders such as Peter Sutherland, John Magnier, Seán O’Driscoll, and Liam Casey.

Sporting legends Kevin Moran, Jonjo O’Neill, Ruby Walsh, AP McCoy, Donal Lenihan, and Hugo MacNeill are also on the London committee.


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