O'Driscoll comes top of his class with college accolade
THE two Brians returned to their alma mater last night as grand-slam winning captain Brian O'Driscoll was awarded one of UCD's highest honours.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who studied law at the university, presented the Ireland rugby captain with the UCD Foundation Day Medal and hailed O'Driscoll as one of the finest ambassadors for Irish sport.
UCD presents the award to graduates who "demonstrate great achievement and play a significant leadership role".
O'Driscoll (30) said he was honoured to receive the award and to join the ranks of distinguished previous recipients.
"It is fantastic to be back on campus without the burden of study, enjoying this evening, meeting people from all walks of life and catching up with old friends," he said.
After attending Blackrock College, O'Driscoll was awarded a sports scholarship to UCD and went on to graduate with a diploma in sports management in 1998.
While there, he quickly progressed from the college under-20s to the senior team in his first year.
O'Driscoll follows in the footsteps of international businessman and former Attorney General Peter Sutherland, former President Patrick Hillery, author Maeve Binchy, GAA commentator Micheal O'Muircheartaigh and Alltech founder Pearse Lyons.
The Foundation Day Medal was inaugurated in 2004 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of UCD's foundation as the Catholic University of Ireland.
Mr Cowen -- who famously said that "anyone who went to the UCD bar in the 1970s that didn't get a whiff of marijuana would be telling you a lie" -- praised O'Driscoll.
"He displays precisely the characteristics we want our young people to display, whatever their field of endeavour, and has stood out as one of the finest ambassadors not only for the game of rugby, but for Irish sportsmanship generally," said Mr Cowen.
Mr Cowen, who himself played rugby while in school in Roscrea, Co Tipperary, was lectured by Defence Minister Willie O'Dea at UCD.
O'Driscoll also captained four other UCD players for Ireland last year, as Irish rugby enjoyed one of its most successful seasons ever.
Graduate Paddy Wallace and students Rob Kearney, who is currently studying for a masters in Economics, Gordon D'Arcy, who is studying for a BA in Geography, and Jamie Heaslip, who is completing a masters in management, were all part of the squad that led Ireland to six nations glory.
O'Driscoll is also the captain for the upcoming international series which will see Ireland take on Australia, Fiji and South Africa. The award caps off a great year for the Leinster centre after he won the Heineken cup with and also got engaged to actress Amy Huberman.