PAUL O’Connell has pulled on the captain’s armband for Munster, Ireland and the Lions, but he will be slipping on a wedding band for the first time next year.
He received the Freedom of Limerick City this year but he is a free man no longer – as Paul and his long-term partner Emily O’Leary got engaged this Monday. The Limerick couple have a ready-made page boy in their son, Paddy, born in April 2010.
The news was celebrated in Drombanna by Paul’s parents Michael and Shelagh, and by his brothers Justin and Marcus; and in Clarina by Emily’s parents, Pat and Keave, brother Paul and sisters Stephanie and Danielle.
Paul is normally the first out on the pitch but he will be one of the last of his generation of Irish rugby heroes to get married. Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, John Hayes and Donncha O’Callaghan have all walked down the aisle in recent years.
It is understood that the nupitals are planned for next summer but no date has been set. However, it’s highly unlikely that the the end of June or the start of July will be pencilled in, as the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia takes place then. Paul captained the Lions in 2009 and, injury permitting, is hotly tipped to be on the aeroplane to face the Wallabies.
The two met in 2000 when Paul was a promising player with Young Munster. They were introduced by mutual friends while socialising on a night out in Limerick city.
Paul is very vocal on the pitch and in the dressing room, but softly spoken about his life off the pitch.
He attended the Model School and Ardscoil Ris, and was in the final stages of completing a degree at the University of Limerick when professional rugby came calling and he signed a full contract with the Munster team. Since then, he hasn’t looked back and is rated one of the world’s best forwards.
Emily is a Laurel Hill girl. She worked with Murray O’Laoire Architects and is a full-time mum at their home in Annacotty.As Paul is one of the most popular and talented sports people that Limerick has ever produced there will be many raising a glass to toast the happy couple.