Brian O'Driscoll: He has a real humility that's not faked... Paul O'Connell was tremendous
Published 09/02/2016 | 13:31
Brian O'Driscoll had admitted to being 'shocked' when he heard the news this morning that the devastating hamstring injury that robbed Paul O'Connell of leading Ireland into the Rugby World Cup knockout stages had ended his playing career.
Despite the severity of the injury and O'Connell's age profile, his former Ireland team mate was confident the 36-year-old could come through it.
"Even though you know he's getting old and you know he suffered a bad injury, I suppose I still suffered a shock this morning when I heard he had announced his retirement," BOD told Newstalk Lunchtime with Jonathan Healy
"He was the character that thought nothing was impossible and even at 36 years of age, a hamstring tear off the bone and you still thought of all the people who could come back from it, it would definitely be Paul O'Connell.
"It hit home that everyone is susceptible to getting on in life and the injury was too bad for him to get back.
"He's a huge loss to rugby in general and to Irish rugby. His legendary status will go down for many, many years."
The pair captained Ireland through a period of unprecedented success in the 21st century and O'Driscoll believes it was down to a crop of players who happened to appear on the scene at the right time.
"It was a group of players of a similar mindset. Paulie came in in 2002 for his first cap against Wales but prior to that a new breed of players... Shane Horgan, Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer, Simon Easterby all got capped together and it was an injection of youth married with some of the older figures," he said.
"It was a belief that as underage players they had won and now that they were at a national level, there was no reason why that should change.
"That injection was vital."
In his 13 years as an international lock, O'Connell always remained as one of the best players in his position on the planet.
"He had a constant need to get better every single year, always trying to hone his own skills, his physical attributes, his diet. He was such a stickler for making sure he was taking the right things on board," O'Driscoll added.
"Supplementation, he was way ahead of everyone else in Ireland when supplementation came in. Even small things like taking multi-vitamins. He wasn't getting common colds like everyone else.
"He was professionalism personified."
They shared in four Triple Crown wins, a Grand Slam and Championship victory but when they met in the heat of battle during a provincial derby between Munster and Leinster, there was never a quarter given.
"It was great. We both enjoyed it. It was an opportunity to really have a go at a world class player and try to steer your team and have a positive effect and he had it for many occasions with Munster and I was lucky to have got the better of him too," he contined.
"It was always a good contest because you knew he was hard and fair. He was someone who played on the edge. I think he was sent off once in his career for a swinging elbow but he was a tough, tough player but he always shook your hand afterwards.
"He'd a real nice demeanour about him and a humility and not a forced humility or a fake humility. You can see that in the outpouring of love for him over the course of the World Cup and today.
"He was a really likeable personality on top of being a tremendous rugby player."
O'Driscoll is closing in on the second anniversary of his retirement from playing and advised O'Connell to take a break.
"He probably should take a little time off because whatever he throws himself into, he'll be in it 100pc and totally committed to it.
"Whatever he throw his hands at he'll be successful , he's a very clever guy, a good thinker in all situations.
"Coaching seems to be something that is right up his street but we'll have to wait and see."