Irish Rugby head coach Joe Schmidt was officially named an honorary Corkman at yesterday’s Cork Person of the Year Awards.
The former Leinster head coach said he was certainly not expecting the honour and was privileged to be in Cork to accept it.
Schmidt enjoyed a hugely successful 2018 at the helm of Irish Rugby claiming the Six Nations crown, winning a test series against Australia down under and clinching a historic victory over the All Blacks in the Aviva Stadium.
“I thought I was severely disliked down here,” he joked.
Speaking about his career at both Leinster and Ireland, Schmidt said:
“It has been an incredible journey for myself and my family.
“We have been welcomed by everyone we’ve met in Ireland across the board and it’s great to include the independent Republic of Cork in that welcome as well,” he smiled.
“We’ve got great friends down here.” Speaking about the quality of his players, Schmidt said the calibre of talent from the Munster region continues to contribute to the Ireland set up.
Schmidt said that he will be in the stands himself cheering Munster on.
“I didn’t think that would be the case five and a half years ago, that I’d be at a game cheering the red team on.
“But I am delighted to be doing it and I’m delighted to achieve this passport.
“I will feel far more comfortable coming in and out of Cork now than I ever have before,” he smiled.
Speaking about Joe Schmidt’s award, rugby commentator and Irish Examiner columnist Donal Lenihan said:
“The last five seasons have been a roller coaster of a ride, with Schmidt elevating Ireland from sixth in the World Rugby’s rankings to a current high of second with the potential of reaching the number one slot.” He added that Joe’s retirement will be a massive loss to the game here in Ireland and that many will be sad to see him go.
“Perhaps now that he is an honorary Corkman, with a Republic of Cork passport, I might be able to swing a role for him with Cork Con,” joked Lenihan.
With plans to step down from Irish Rugby next year, Schmidt admitted there is still much to look forward to in 2019.
“There’s a small tournament at the end of the year that we’re going to try to break a glass ceiling in,” he said.
“We’re certainly going to give it our best shot.”