Ronan O’Gara was awarded the freedom of his hometown Cork City yesterday and said he was “unbelievably humbled” to receive the honour.
The Munster and Ireland legend was visibly emotional as he accepted the honour in Cork City Hall. He expressed his gratitude for the people of Cork in his acceptance speech as well as his family, coaches and former teammates.
Recalling a Munster game against Edinburgh in Musgrave Park as a standout personal moment of his career, O’Gara pointed to the showing of support the home fans gave him when he was suffering through “many dark nights.” The ex-number 10 often points to the aftermath of Ireland’s disastrous 2007 World Cup campaign as some of his toughest times as a rugby player, publicly admitting to a cruel depression as a result of the feeling of letting himself, his family and his country down.
The Cork native went on to reminisce on that special feeling he had when the people of the Rebel county showed their unwavering support of their man just a few weeks after his and Ireland’s major flop on rugby’s biggest stage. As his voice cracked, he said:
“Everyone gave me an incredible, incredible reception. I’ll never forget the people of Cork for that.
It was something small to ye, but for me, when I was on my knees, Cork people were there. And that’s what I’ll remember.”
To follow in the footsteps of other sporting heroes from Cork who have also been granted with the freedom of the Leeside city such as Roy Keane, Sonia O’Sullivan and Sean Og O’hAilpin is something that fills ROG with pride.
“I didn’t expect this and it’s a little bit surreal but unbelievably humbling.
“People like Roy and Sonia, they are heroes of mine. They were my sporting heroes growing up. I’m up at the big table today,” the Racing 92 coach said.