HE never imagined he would one day walk the cobblestones of Trinity College Dublin and Irish soccer legend John Giles has told of his delight to receive an honorary degree from the university.
The 73-year-old, who was born and bred in Dublin's inner city centre and is one of the country's best-known sports figures, was conferred with a Doctor in Laws (LL.D) yesterday.
The RTE pundit brought 10 guests with him to the ceremony, including his wife and daughters. He told the Irish Independent he was extremely honoured to be recognised alongside fellow recipients.
They were ethologist Jane Goodall, the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, filmmaker Lelia Doolan, leading phonetician John Laver and Trinity graduate David Went.
"It's a great honour for me, because I was born and raised on Ormond Square along the Quays. The nearest I ever got to Trinity would've been working outside the gates," he said.
"It's a huge honour and my family are very happy about it. It's also a nice occasion for us to get together, because my family are all over the place, and it's a fantastic honour for the soccer community. too. We'll have a family celebration over the weekend definitely."
When he heard he was to be conferred, the retired international said he was "surprised". "You play football or commentate and, as far as I'm concerned, you're just doing your job, so I'm always amazed with the affection from people because you don't really expect it."
Despite being one of Ireland's most recognisable soccer players, Giles admitted he still grapples with public attention.
"You're in people's living rooms and I do find that you can be walking down the street and people will say 'Hi Johnny' and they're familiar with you. It's very nice though, I'm sort of used to it now."
Trinity's provost Dr Patrick Prendergast and the chancellor of the university, Mary Robinson, presided over the proceedings.