All over Britain today, people will hang their bunting and prepare their afternoon teas to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
However, across the Irish Sea, the feeling may not be so festive across households, to say the least.
When former Grand Slam winner Ireland half and three-time British and Irish tourist Ronan O’Gara met the Queen in 2009, many criticized the rugby legend for his apparent “snub” from Her Majesty.
Following Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam feats, with O’Gara kicking the decisive drop goal at Wales’ Millennium Stadium to seal the historic victory, a civic reception was held in Stormont.
As Queen Elizabeth II greeted the players, a photo appeared of O’Gara standing with her hands firmly in her pockets, with center Brian O’Driscoll smiling at O’Gara, who received widespread criticism in the press.
O’Gara soon dispelled the myth that he had “snubbed” the queen, claiming that out of respect for the monarch, he had cleaned his hands of sweat before he shook her hand.
“The picture appeared in the Irish Times where everyone was convinced I had refused to shake her hand.
“You are respectful of older women, women in general.
“My hands were sweaty. I had my hands in (my pockets).
“I cleaned my hands of sweat to make sure there wasn’t a layer of sweat before I squeezed her hand.”
O’Gara argues that it was simply an opportunistic photograph that then took on a life of its own, with the false story of him as “difficult Corkman” being created.
The great Frank Miller, @IrishTimes picture ed, retired today – one of his unforgettable photos – Ronan O’Gara hands in his pockets meeting the queen while Jamie Heaslip gives him the dirt. pic.twitter.com/lUdoXrVw6e
– Bernice Harrison (@BerniceHarrison) April 20, 2018
O’Gara defined himself as “a very proud Irishman and a Catholic but I’m not a Republican”, adding that “I’m not politically aligned”.
The fourth-highest scorer in the history of test rugby has continued to score on the majority of the Ulster team, which is ninety percent Protestant, with whom he is friendly of course.
The journey the picture has taken continues to plague O’Gara to this day, even claiming that “If there’s one thing I’d most like to explain from my playing career, it’s this event.”
Thus, it is worth remembering that if you ever have the rare opportunity to meet the Queen, keep your hands out of your pockets.
The clarified relationship between O’Gara and the English royalty after the “horror show” of that infamous picture is good news for those who are asking for the current La Rochelle Coach to be appointed as the next England Coach.
Following his French side’s enthusiastic last-minute win over favorites Leinster last Saturday to win their first European Champions Cup, O’Gara makes a name for himself as one of the top coaches around, becoming only the third person to win the Heineken Champions Cup. as a player and as a coach.
The turnaround for the small club on the Atlantic Coast, with the team being in the second division of France just eight years ago, reaching the top of club rugby last weekend, is a true sporting story for the ages.
O’Gara’s appointment as a major international coach now seems like just a matter of time, and whether it’s with Ireland or even with England, let’s hope he avoids the press mistakes and keeps his hands cleaner in the future.