Belfast Telegraph

Brian O'Driscoll swaps his kit for a gown as he picks up honorary degree at Queen University Belfast

Irish rugby legend to join 800 at a gala day in Belfast

By Rebecca Black

Irish rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll is swapping his muddy kit for a university gown, and his beloved oval ball for a scroll, to lead the pack at the first day of the Queen’s graduations today.

Brian will be one of almost 800 people honoured at a ceremony in the historic Whitla Hall at the winter graduation ceremonies.

Students from the the schools of engineering, nursing, sociology, business and management will be among the graduates.

O’Driscoll will receive an honorary degree for his services to sport.

The 35-year-old Dubliner is among the most acclaimed Irish rugby players of all-time.

The highest try scorer in Irish rugby history captained his province Leinster, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions.

Some of the highlights of his illustrious career, which ended when he retired last year, include 141 Test caps (133 for Ireland and eight for the British and Irish Lions), 46 tries for Ireland and one try for the Lions.

Yesterday he said he was delighted by the honour from Queen’s.

“Queen’s has a great sporting tradition and, as one of the UK and Ireland’s leading universities, they have always been at the forefront of sporting provision and opportunities,” he said.

“To receive this recognition from such a prestigious university is a considerable honour.

“I very much look forward to sharing this special occasion with students who will be graduating on the same day.”

Mr O’Driscoll and his wife Amy had their second child, a baby boy named Billy, just a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, it will be a double celebration for the newly crowned Northern Ireland Young Entrepreneur of the Year Matthew Large as he graduates today with a degree in mathematics and physics.

Mr Large started up his own company, glistrr, during his studies, which has blossomed and now employs five people

Glistrr provides a service for event organisers including efficient tools for managing guest lists, ticketing and table bookings, with a focus on increasing the viral reach of events through social media.

Ambitious Matthew has set his sights on the US market and glistrr has already been invited to exhibit at Collision in Las Vegas, the US version of the Web Summit.

He paid tribute to Queen’s for his success. “It’s all starting to happen for me but I wouldn’t be in this position were it not for the support and encouragement I received at Queen’s,” he said.

“It was at university that I was exposed to a spirit of enterprise and Queen’s really nurtures that kind of risk-taking talent, producing high-calibre graduates that can grow the local economy.”

And Queen’s graduation organiser Una Reid will today swap her clipboard for a parchment as she graduates with an MSSC in organisation and management. As head of events, ceremonial and conferencing, Ms Reid has organised over 250 graduation ceremonies since joining the university in 2000.

She described her experience at the other side of the desk as “very enjoyable and fulfilling”, and has even continued to organise this year’s graduations while donning her own gown.

Brian O’Driscoll is receiving an honorary degree at Queen’s University Belfast in recognition of his services to sport

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