Saturday 21 October 2017

Why I'll always be hooked to the number 13 jersey and the man who wore it so well

Brian O’Driscoll leaves the pitch to applause after the clash against Italy.
Brian O’Driscoll leaves the pitch to applause after the clash against Italy.
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

When the Irish rugby team bagman Paddy 'Rala' O'Reilly saw the replay recently of Brian O'Driscoll's hat-trick in Paris in 2000, the image took him aback. Not because of O'Driscoll's handiwork. But his own handiwork. "Would ya look at the sleeves," Rala cursed to himself.

The Ireland jerseys were long-sleeved back then; but the players wanted them short. So before Rala laid them out in the Stade de France dressing room, he had to cut up the sleeves. It was going to be a roll-up-the-sleeves kind of game anyway. After the alterations, Rala hung up the number 13 jersey on the hook. It was a game away from becoming one of the most iconic jerseys in world rugby. That day in Paris, nothing fell apart at the seams.

When O'Driscoll was asked by his former team-mate Shane Horgan what he was going to miss the most in the Six Nations, he mused about the visits to Rala's room in the team hotel. On the eve of his final Ireland game, O'Driscoll would have completed the ritual for the final time in Paris last night. Just after 10pm. The last player to visit.

Please sign in or register with Independent.ie for free access to Opinions.

Sign In

Don't Miss