Belfast Telegraph

Former Ireland rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll 'proud' after attending Twelfth event

Former Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll / Credit: Aaron Willis
Former Irish rugby captain Brian O'Driscoll / Credit: Aaron Willis

Former Ireland rugby team captain Brian O'Driscoll has revealed that he was proud to have attended the Twelfth of July celebrations in Armagh this year, despite receiving a mixed response.

O'Driscoll attended the event as part of filming for his new documentary 'Shoulder to Shoulder' which looks at the challenges faced by rugby players in the Ireland team during the Troubles.

The former British and Irish Lions star went viral on social media after he was recorded playing the Lambeg drum at the event.

However O'Driscoll told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme that the reaction to his appearance was a "mixed bag".

O'Driscoll, regarded as one of the greatest rugby players of all time, said that the Orange community appreciated he was willing to "try something that is of huge importance to them", while others in the Republic of Ireland were "appalled".

He admitted that his documentary had led to direct threats on social media.

"I was told not to wear my Irish jersey in Portadown or eight guys would be there to give me a hiding," O'Driscoll said.

"My first thoughts were, 'gosh, I don't know why they need eight guys'.

"It felt like an inadvertent compliment that they couldn't get the job done with four. But that stuff doesn't concern me at all."

The former Leinster star said that despite the response he was glad to have attended the event.

Brian O’Driscoll in a selfie with Ivor Whitten (Ivor Whitten/Instagram)
Brian O’Driscoll in a selfie with Ivor Whitten (Ivor Whitten/Instagram)

"When I woke up the next day I was proud that I'd put myself out of my comfort zone and I had done something that maybe not everyone would do," O'Driscoll said.

"If I was asked to do it again, would I give it a go? I absolutely would."

As part of his documentary O'Driscoll spoke to Northern Irish players who represented Ireland during the Troubles, including Willie John McBride, David Irwin and Mike Gibson.

The Ireland rugby team is made up of players from both Northern Ireland and the Republican of Ireland.

Other sports, including football, have separate Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland teams.

"When I was growing up and doing Irish history, Dublin was still far enough away from Belfast where you don't have to understand the existence properly," he said.

"But when you link it together with people that have played in the green jersey and captained Ireland, like Willie John, it makes that link much less tenuous.

"It's direct - and I suppose, in another world, it could've been you."

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