'I was doing four-and-a-half hours of rehab a day but it wasn't working' - Paul O'Connell
Published 09/02/2016 | 11:18
One of Ireland's greatest ever rugby players Paul O'Connell has been forced to hang up his boots after a success-laden career.
With an honours list that includes a Grand Slam, four Triple Crowns, two Six Nations championships, two European Cups, three League titles and a Celtic Cup with Munster and Ireland, O'Connell has began reflecting on his achievements.
The 36-year-old Limerick man has become one of the most popular figures in Irish sport over the last 15 years with his heroic displays on the field and his warm demeanour off it.
The hamstring injury which ended his Ireland career is such disappointing manner at the World Cup in October has now claimed his rugby career entirely.
"He leaves Toulon having failed to appear once for the French giants, after joining them last summer from Munster and he has admitted that failing to contribute to success at the Stade Mayol will be a regret," he told Michael Corcoran on RTE Radio One this morning.
"I knew it was bad at the time. Injuries seem bad when they happen right at the time. It was only in the weeks after it that I found out how bad an injury it was and how difficult it is to get back from it.
"Unfortunately, progress has been very slow for me and I won't get back to where I was so I've decided to retire and I won't be taking on the big adventure in Toulon which is a very big disappointment.
"I was really looking forward to it, Emily was really looking forward to it., the kids were really looking forward to it. Lola hasn't much of a clue but she was going anyway.
"It's unfortunate but it is what it is.
"I had a very enjoyable career, a very long career. I look at someone like Felix Jones, who I would be very close to, forced into retiring in the past few months as well at 28 with so much ahead of him. I consider myself very lucky."
O'Connell described the pain at the bottom of the ruck as the worst he had ever experienced on a playing pitch.
"I was sore. With that injury, there is a lot of swelling but the swelling hits off the nerve and that's where the pain comes from, it's not necessarily the injury," he added
"Anyone who has had nerve pain with a back or a neck can tell you how sore it can be.
"That never really happened to me. I went over on my ankle really badly once in Thomond Park and it blew up instantly and was sore. I thought I had broken it but that was nothing like the pain I experienced in the French game.
"I honestly thought at the time, 'My career is over... I won't get to experience France for a year and half and learn the language and do all the things I was really looking forward to'.
"I knew a few guys who had the injury and had come back from it in a decent time but I did it a lot of worse than a lot of other people have and getting back to where I was just wasn't going to happen."
O'Connell revealed the extent of the rehab he went through and the effort he put in to try and line-out in the Top 14 but it was to no avail.
"It isn't really a decision that's difficult. you're either going to get back to being strong and fast and powerful again or you're not. It makes the decision for you," he continued
"I don't dwell on it for too long I just move on. I was rehabbing away all the time and I was trying to ignore the bigger picture, ignore of it was going to come right. I was just trying to work very hard. I was doing about four-and-a-half hours a day.
"I hate having to tell people and say it because it has been a massive part of my life.
"Already my diet over the last week has gone out the window.
"It's so strange. It's been a strange week but Toulon have been great."
So what's next for Paul O'Connell.
"I have a number of things on the go. I'm doing a book at the moment which I will have to start working very hard at now.
"I work with a few companies, I've really enjoyed working with Pinergy and getting to look over the fence at how it works. I'll hopefully get to do a little more with them.
"I'm involved in a number of initiatives around Limerick which I'll take a bigger part in and I'll have a look at coaching too."