'This is very special' - Dr Paul O'Connell awarded honorary doctorate by University of Limerick
IRISH rugby hero Paul O’Connell donned a cap and gown at his old college today as he was awarded an honorary doctorate.
The former Ireland captain, who bowed out of international rugby after picking up a hamstring injury at the World Cup last month, is the 100th person to receive an honorary doctorate at the University of Limerick.
O’Connell (36) has had a long standing association with the university before becoming an Honorary Doctor of Science.
As a keen swimmer in his younger years, he used to train at the swimming pool on campus and he eventually went on to study computer engineering there before his rugby career took off.
Since then he has been a frequent visitor to UL, with Munster and Ireland using the college as a training base in the past.
The Limerick-native said that he was privileged to become Dr Paul O’Connell.
“To get appreciated by your home university is something very special,” he said.
“When you grow up in Limerick close to the city, UL ends up being a big part of your life,” he added.
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“Long before I ever went here training for Munster, I would have come here for all manner of activities, from camping, to school tours to debating competitions.”
However, he insisted that he won’t be demanding that people refer to him as “Doctor Paul”.
Having recently signed for French side Toulon, O’Connell admitted that it will be strange to be moving away from Munster’s training base in UL.
“I started swimming here when I was four or five years old in the old 33 metre pool,” he said.
“Since then, not a week has gone by where I haven’t been into UL for one reason or another but (moving on) is all part of life,” he added.
UL President Professor Don Barry said that he was proud to confer O’Connell with the honour.
“Much thought, consideration and deliberation goes into deciding who is worthy, except when it is a real-life super hero and particularly when his name is Paul O’Connell,” said Prof Barry.
“The awarding of a University of Limerick honorary doctorate is an occasion when we get the opportunity to honour those who have inspired, who have led with courage and passion and who have made great contributions in their fields of endeavour,” he added.
“I am very proud that UL bestowed upon Paul our highest honour. He was already an important member of the UL family, but today he accepted a place in the history of this institution.”