Saturday 3 December 2016

Colm Parkinson: You can't write him off, but Paulie may not return from this

Colm Parkinson

Published 14/10/2015 | 02:30

Paul O'Connell
Paul O'Connell

The tributes flowed in yesterday for Paul O'Connell after the expected news that his World Cup, and Ireland career, is over.

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There was no real shock. It was clearly a hamstring injury and he was in a lot of distress so hoping for good news from the scan was futile.

The question now turns to whether his rugby career is over. His recovery and time out of the game will depend on how successful surgery will be.

Kerry footballer Tommy Walsh tore all three tendons at the top of his hamstring, leaving his hamstring attached to nothing, while playing with the Sydney Swans two years ago which caused him to miss a full season of action.

A similar injury, at Paul's age, would most likely spell the end of his career. Would he spend a year rehabbing his hamstring on the off chance that he would be back 100pc for his second year with Toulon at 37?

Ability

What a captain, for Munster and Ireland, he has been. It's difficult to tick all the boxes as captain. Some are naturally good leaders on the field, often because of their ability, but not off it.

Leading by example on the pitch is one thing but leading in training and off the field is another. When you factor in dressing-room speeches, commanding the respect of your team-mates and being a diplomatic link between management and players, you'll begin to see what a difficult job it is. Paul had it all.

One image of him from last Sunday stands out. Early on, he attacked the French defensive line and got through surprisingly easy, his momentum making him topple over. He did an army-style roll and then started crawling, desperately trying to gain a few extra metres. When players talk about setting the tone this is what they mean.

In the end only a freak injury could stop him. Let's hope the Irish team take inspiration from that too.

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