'A roomful of Paddies, a free bar and the future king of England. It’s going to be messy'

Stars of sport and entertainment come out for O’Driscoll testimonial in London

Ireland rugby international Brian O'Driscoll was honoured at a gala testimonial dinner in London organised by Denis O'Brien, Dermot Desmond, Bono and Michael Smurfit, and which was attended by Prince William.

O’Driscoll was accompanied by his wife, actor Amy Huberman, and members of his family. They met Prince William, a passionate rugby fan, before the dinner in the Grosvenor House Hotel in London which was attended by about 800 people.

Two years ago, the gifted rugby international turned down an invitation to Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton because the wedding came just a day before a crucial Heineken Cup encounter with Toulouse the following day.

Comedian Patrick Kielty acted as MC for the “strictly private” dinner. The cheapest tickets cost €680, the middle category went for €1,000 each, while the price of the so-called “black” tickets – “the ones close to Brian”, said one source, was “not disclosed”.


The gathering brought out rugby stars past and present, including Irish captain Jamie Heaslip, outhalf Jonathan Sexton, prop Cian Healy and fullback Rob Kearney, along with past heroes such as Keith Wood.

Kilkenny hurling star Henry Shefflin added a GAA flavour to the evening. One of his jerseys from a winning All-Ireland final was included among a number of other valuable items in a silent auction.

A "substantial" donation from the revenues generated by the dinner – where guests were at one point entertained by the Riverdance troupe – will go to the Irish Rugby Football Union's charitable trust, a spokeswoman for O'Driscoll said.

However, she said everything that was raised from a testimonial dinner to be held in his honour in Dublin on November 1st will be donated to the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and to Temple Street hospital.

Entering the hotel, Kielty joked with photographers: “Sure what could go wrong? It is the day after St Patrick’s Day, a roomful of Paddies, a free bar and the future king of England. It’s going to be messy.”

The idea for the testimonial, O’Driscoll’s spokeswoman, added, came from Henry Keogh of Coutts Bank – the queen’s bankers. “He was the person who gave the idea,” she said, “it wasn’t something that Brian had thought about at all before then.”

The organising committee also included Mr Keogh, Danny O’Donoghue of The Script and music and theatre promoter Caroline Downey Desmond, who has previously raised large sums for the ISPCC.

The U2 singer and his wife, Ali, were among those at the black-tie event, along with U2 manager Paul McGuinness.

Others from the entertainment world included Niall Horan of boy band One Direction and members of the Coronas, who are friends with O’Driscoll.

Last night's guest list also included actor Michael Fassbender, ex-boxing champion Barry McGuigan, former rugby star Hugo McNeill and past and present soccer internationals including Fulham's Damien Duff and Niall Quinn. Emeli Sande, the pop star and songwriter, whose album Our Version Of Events was the UK's biggest selling debut last year, also entertained the gathering .

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is News Editor of the The Irish Times