Sunday 23 July 2017

Lukewarm is closest he's been to landing in hot water

Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

BRIAN O'Driscoll is an elite sportsman and a "global ambassador" for the Gillette shaving company. It is there, however, that any similarity with Tiger Woods or Thierry Henry abruptly ends.

Brian and controversy are not regular bedfellows. You might say he's a controversy virgin. In more than a decade at the pinnacle of arguably the toughest sport, he has only memorably been in hot water -- okay, lukewarm water -- twice.

That was when he ostentatiously drank a sports drink during a post-match television interview and, later, when he was on the wrong end of a spear tackle in New Zealand. Suffice to say, any "tell all" autobiography is not wildly anticipated.

Yesterday, as it has always been off the field, he played it straight, and with a nod to his sponsors.

While it was an even-money bet whether Amy Huberman would arrive at the church in a vintage Rolls Royce or Bentley, there was no doubt whatsoever as to what mode of transport her fiance would take.

Brian, who drives a Lexus GS worth about €70,000, was chosen as an ambassador for the car maker because of his "leadership qualities".

He was, of course, clean shaven when he emerged, smiling broadly, from the 2010-registered car.

A proven media performer, close friends nonetheless speak of an inherent shyness in the 31-year-old. If he was nervous before the big moment -- or before a more intimate crowd than he is used to performing in front of -- he didn't show it yesterday.

He made his way out of the church grounds to greet fans and sign autographs minutes before his bride arrived.

It is a cliche, but it is also true: Ireland's greatest-ever rugby player is remarkably down to earth.

Hell, it is almost possible to believe that he is a regular of his local credit union -- as another lucrative endorsement would have us believe.

Perhaps the "Mr Normal" schtick is an act, but if it is he has proven very good at it. And he's been doing it for a long time now.

In 2000, one week before he famously scored those three tries in Paris that marked him out as the next superstar, I interviewed him at his family home in Clontarf, Dublin.

Somewhat the worse for wear after a night on the tiles, he nonetheless gave over an hour to a college newspaper reporter, answering whatever questions were put to him and bemoaning his lack of luck with the ladies the previous evening.

Privacy

Little has changed when it comes to his manners, although the love life has improved dramatically, as he patiently posed for photographers, correctly anticipating that giving the media some access early would ensure some privacy later.

But then he is nobody's fool.

He recently launched the 13OD (Bod) logo to help him maximise his earnings. It is believed that his estimated €400,000 annual salary from the IRFU is at least equalled by his sponsorship deals, including those with Adidas and O2.

Irish Independent

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