There was an outpouring of congratulations for Rory Best yesterday on the news that he will captain Ireland for the RBS Six Nations.
The tournament that gets under way early next month is one of the best loved sporting events in the British Isles (and much loved in France and Italy too) and it is a huge honour for a player to be appointed to lead a team through it.
The Ulster Rugby skipper is an affable and well-respected player who made his debut for Ireland a decade ago.
Since then the Poyntzpass farmer has donned a green jersey 89 times and is now Ireland’s most capped hooker.
The good news for Rory, 33, follows the setbacks of missing an entire season out due to injury in 2009-10, and his brother Simon’s retirement from the game due to a heart condition, bringing to an end a career that had also included captaincy of Ireland.
Rory is now at the top of his game, and has a distinguished record as an Ireland senior player and British-Irish Lion. It is good to see a northern player at the helm of one of the sports that is successfully organised on an all-island basis, in the always tricky matter of north-south sporting arrangements.
Rory’s elevation continues a long spell of successes for Northern Irish sport – the Northern Ireland football team qualifying with ease at the top of its group for Euro 16, Rory McIlroy still near the top of the golf rankings (currently world number three), and the recent electrifying BBC Sports Personality of the Year show hosted in Belfast, which showcased our other sporting giants including Carl Frampton and (the now Sir) Tony McCoy.
This is a well deserved appointment for Rory, and a big responsibility too.
Anyone who has followed his career will have no doubt that he is capable of further success at this level.
Sporting fans across Northern Ireland will wish him well for this tournament.