Rugby stars line out for Donncha's big day
Donncha ends stellar year with the perfect match
IT was a fairytale ending to a record-breaking year for Munster rugby star Donncha O'Callaghan.
The 30-year-old married his long-term girlfriend Jennifer Harte in a winter wonderland in Cork, with Mother Nature providing the magic touches to the church and reception venues yesterday.
Copious amounts of table salt were scattered over the entrance to St Columba's Church in Douglas before and after the ceremony to avoid an injury to the assembled pride of Irish rugby.
The guest list was a who's who of the rugby scene with almost all the Ireland, Munster and Leinster players attending.
They were led by Ireland and former Munster manager Declan Kidney, who is a long-time friend and mentor of Donncha.
Brian O'Driscoll and his fiancee Amy Huberman, Ronan O'Gara, Tomas O'Leary, Paul O'Connell, Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace, Anthony Foley, Marcus Horan, Frankie Sheahan, Jerry Flannery, Peter Stringer, Jerry Buckley and Gordan D'Arcy all turned out for the big day.
International stars were also represented through Munster's former All Black star Dougie Howlett, Tongan player Lifeimi Mafi, as well as Ireland and Leicester Tigers captain Geordan Murphy.
Munster star Denis Leamy was unable to attend as he is recovering from knee surgery.
Munster rugby boss Garret Fitzgerald was also a guest, as was millionaire Cork developer Michael O'Flynn.
The wedding also proved to be a match made in rugby heaven because the bride is a cousin of Ireland and Leinster captain O'Driscoll.
The bride looked stunning in an ivory-white, off-the-shoulder gown with her bridesmaids arrayed in stylish, green dresses.
The wedding celebrant was Father Michael Keohane, who was assisted by Father Liam O'Regan.
The bridesmaids were Jennifer's sisters, Nicola and Caroline, and the bride was given away by her father, Paul Harte.
The bride arrived at the flower-bedecked church in a black BMW limousine, which later whisked the happy couple to their reception venue.
Donncha's best man was his brother Eddie, and his groomsmen were Ultan and Emmet O'Callaghan.
Irish soprano Cara O'Sullivan delivered the stunning musical segment of the wedding Mass as well as a selection of seasonal Christmas carols including 'Silent Night', 'Oh Holy Night' and 'Adeste Fideles'.
Rugby fans gathered at the church to congratulate the happy couple, with a handful eager to gather autographs from the assembled galaxy of stars.
The newlyweds later hosted a private wedding celebration in the Maryborough House Hotel for more than 300 guests.
Messages of congratulations flooded into the hotel from friends around the world, including rugby stars in France, Wales, England, Italy, Scotland, New Zealand and Australia.
However, their honeymoon will take place later in 2010 in light of the hectic schedule of competitive matches facing Donncha and his Munster team-mates.
A past pupil of Christian Brothers College, Cork, Donncha was a team-mate of O'Driscoll and Paddy Wallace as Ireland won the U-19 World Championship a decade ago.
He made his senior debut for Ireland in March 2003 against Wales and, over the past six years, has established himself as one of the cornerstones of arguably the greatest team in Irish rugby history. Donncha was one of the stars of Munster's two Heineken Cup-winning sides in 2006 and 2008 -- and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2005 and 2009.
The wedding caps a remarkable year not only for Donncha but for Irish rugby itself. The lock played an instrumental role in helping Ireland clinch its first Grand Slam in 60 years.
Jennifer is a graduate of University College Cork.