Throughout Britain today, people will be hanging up their bunting and preparing their afternoon teas to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
However, across the Irish Sea, the sentiment may not be as celebratory across the households, to say the least.
When former Grand Slam winning Ireland fly-half and three-time British and Irish Lions tourist Ronan O’Gara met the Queen in 2009, many criticised the rugby legend for his apparent ‘snubbing’ of Her Majesty.
Following Ireland’s 2009 Grand Slam heroics, with O’Gara kicking the decisive drop-goal in Wales’ Millennium Stadium to seal the historic victory, a civic reception was held in Stormont.
As Queen Elizabeth II was greeting the players, a photo emerged of O’Gara stood with his hands firmly in his pockets, with centre Brian O’Driscoll smiling over at O’Gara, which received widespread criticism in the press.
O’Gara soon debunked the myth that he ‘snubbed’ the Queen, claiming that out of respect for the monarch, he was cleaning his hands of sweat before he shook her hand.
“The picture appeared in the Irish Times where everyone was convinced that I refused to shake her hand.
“You’re respectful to older women, to women in general.
“My hands were sweaty. I had my hands in (my pockets).
“I was cleaning my hands from sweat to make sure there wasn’t a layer of sweat before I shook her hand.”
O’Gara argues that it was simply an opportunistic photo that then took a life of its own, with the false narrative of him as a “difficult Corkman” being created.
The great Frank Miller, @IrishTimes picture ed, retired today – one of his unforgettable photographs – Ronan O'Gara hands in his pockets meeting the Queen while Jamie Heaslip gives him the filthies pic.twitter.com/lUdoXrVw6e— Bernice Harrison (@BerniceHarrison) April 20, 2018
O’Gara defined that he is: “A very proud Irishman and a Catholic but I am not a republican”, adding that, “I am not politically aligned”.
The fourth highest points scorer in the history of test rugby went on to note of the majority of the Ulster team that are ninety per cent Protestant, with whom he is friendly of course.
The journey that the image went on still haunts O’Gara to this day, even claiming that “If there is one thing I’d most like to clarify from my playing career, it is this incident”.
Thus, it is worth remembering that if you ever have the rare opportunity to meet the Queen, to keep your hands out of your pockets.
The clarified relationship between O’Gara and the English royalty following the “horror show” of that infamous image is good news for those who are calling for the current La Rochelle Coach to be appointed as the next England Coach.
Following his French side’s enthralling last-minute win against favourites Leinster last Saturday to win their first European Champions Cup, O’Gara is making 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 France’s second division only eight years ago, to reaching the pinnacle of club rugby last weekend, is a true sporting story for the ages.
The appointment of O’Gara as a major international coach now seems only a matter of time, and whether it is with Ireland or even with England, let’s hope he avoids the press blunders and keeps his hands cleaner in the future.