The Co Armagh man will become only the second recipient of the honour following former Portadown FC manager Ronnie McFall’s distinction earlier this year.
A motion proposed by UUP councillor Colin McCusker went before full council in Craigavon this evening (Monday) and was universally accepted by all those in chamber.
Best has captained Ireland 21 times, putting him fifth on the all-time list behind greats Brian O’Driscoll (83), Keith Wood (36), Paul O’Connell (28), and Tom Kiernan (24).
The official motion read: “This Council confers the Freedom of the Borough of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon to Mr Rory Best OBE in recognition of his outstanding sporting achievements as captain of Ireland and Ulster Rugby, as well as a British and Irish Lion.
“This conferment is also to recognise that Rory is an excellent ambassador and advocate for his sport and for this Borough.”
Raised in Acton, near Tandragee, Best first made his debut for Ulster as a replacement at home to Munster in the 2005 Celtic League.
He then went on to replace his brother (now retired Ireland and Ulster prop Simon) as Ulster captain for the 2007/08 season and continues to hold the position.
In January 2016, Best was named as the new Ireland captain for the 2016 Six Nations Championship.
On November 26, 2016, Best became Ireland’s fifth centurion, gaining his 100th cap in a test match vs Australia in the Aviva Stadium.
The previous week, Best captained Ireland to a historic 40-29 win over New Zealand in his 99th appearance, Ireland’s first ever win over New Zealand.
Speaking to Armagh I, Deputy Lord Mayor Sam Nicholson said: “Rory has achieved so much in his career and it’s only fitting as a Council we bestow such an honour on a man that has achieved so much.
“I was at the Council’s Sports Awards recently and apart from how I was struck by the way he come across, Rory outlined how he links the three legacy councils.
“He was born and educated in Tandragee, and then on into Portadown and plays rugby in Banbridge, with his wife teaching in Armagh. I thought it was great he was able to link the three.
“He made the point he was very proud to be from this Borough and would take every opportunity to promote it.
“It’s very important that we capitalise on this, along with his successes, because he’s a man that still lives here, his family are a big family in this area and he’s someone that does so much locally.”
Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough, Alderman Gareth Wilson, added: “The Freedom of the Borough is the highest civic honour we can bestow on any person or organisation and it represents our formal expression in recognition of his outstanding sporting achievements and acknowledges Rory as an excellent ambassador for his sport and our borough.”
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