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Saturday 24 February 2018

Gala evening to honour a legend

Fiona Ellis

IT was a star-studded event as hundreds of sporting stars, models and TV personalities turned out to honour one of Ireland's greatest sporting heroes, Brian O'Driscoll.

A host of Irish stars attended the Testimonial Event, supported by Newstalk, which took place at The Convention Centre in Dublin.

The rugby star arrived with wife Amy Huberman, who looked stunning in a black dress with gold belt.

She said it was "surreal" coming over the bridge to see an image of her husband projected on to the convention centre.

"It's brilliant, it's really, really exciting," she said.

"I hope I don't get over-emotional tonight.

Jamie Heaslip and fiancée Sheena O'Buachalla
Jamie Heaslip and fiancée Sheena O'Buachalla
Imelda May
Niall and Gillian Quinn
Brian Ormond and Pippa O'Connor arriving at the Convention Centre, Dublin, for the Brian O'Driscoll Testimonial dinner.
Brian O'Driscoll and Amy Huberman
Imelda May arriving at the Convention Centre, Dublin, for the Brian O'Driscoll Testimonial dinner.
Imelda May signing autographs.
Cian Healy and Holly Carpenter arriving at the Convention Centre, Dublin, for the Brian O'Driscoll Testimonial dinner.
Padraig Harrington and Caroline Harrington arriving at the Convention Centre, Dublin, for the Brian O'Driscoll Testimonial dinner.
Gay Byrne and Kathleen Watkins arriving at the Convention Centre, Dublin, for the Brian O'Driscoll Testimonial dinner.
Leo Cullen and his wife arriving at the Convention Centre, Dublin, for the Brian O'Driscoll Testimonial dinner.
Rob and Dave Kearney arriving at the Convention Centre, Dublin, for the Brian O'Driscoll Testimonial dinner.
Brian O'Driscoll signing autographs outside for waiting fans
Cian Healy signing autographs
Brian O'Driscoll signing autographs outside for waiting fans
Brian O'Driscoll signing autographs outside for waiting fans

"I think everyone just wants to celebrate the career he's had so it's really special. I'm more nervous tonight because it is home ground. Maybe it means a little bit at more at home here, because this is where he's had his career provincially and nationally."

She joked that their eight-month-old daughter wasn't invited along for the night. "She can't do late nights," she said.

The man of the hour said he felt "honoured".

"It's strange seeing projections of yourself up on the convention centre, but it's fantastic as well. I feel really honoured to be able to have a testimonial dinner and hopefully help out two great charities in the process.

"Hopefully we will make a considerable amount of money," he said.

He said he was looking forward to the near future rather than dwelling on his impending retirement. "I'm not finished," he said. "I still plan on doing something in blue jerseys and green jerseys so I wanna be able to enjoy those seven months before it finally does come."

He said he still might get a little choked up at the event.

"I'm sure it'll still be an emotional time because you'll see all the great times you've had on screen and hopefully I'll hear one or two nice things by one or two people so it'll be a great experience."

He said he was looking forward to having more family time once he retired and was happy to step back and let Amy shine.

"I'm excited about our next phase of life wherever that'll bring us; so if it brought us further afield, Dublin or Ireland, I'm only too happy to slip in to her slipstream and go with the flow."

More than 1,140 people attended the sold-out gala evening, which was compered by TV presenter Gethin Jones.

Businesswoman Caroline Downey said she has known Brian for a decade and during that time he has been an ambassador for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), which would benefit from the night, alongside Temple St Children's Hospital.

She said she hoped the event would raise €600,000 for the chosen charities.

Irish Independent

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