JOURNALIST Paul Kimmage has spoken about his falling-out with Brian O'Driscoll two years into their work on the rugby star's high-profile autobiography. The eagerly anticipated book is due to be published within months.
But Kimmage – a sports journalist with the 'Sunday Independent' – will no longer be involved. "We've had our disagreements and that's where we are now," said Kimmage as publishers Penguin Ireland accepted his resignation.
"I am enduring a lot of pain – it is similar to the break-up of a loving relationship, which is what I had with Brian. A break-up is sad and it's never easy and it's never fun. I've a deep hole in myself now, which is going to take a while to fill."
He also revealed he had just finished a draft of 20,000 words of the autobiography and had planned to present it to O'Driscoll this week.
But Kimmage's former colleague on the 'Sunday Times', Alan English, has now been parachuted in to complete the project.
The announcement caused shock across sporting and literary circles as O'Driscoll and Kimmage have been working on the book together since 2012.
O'Driscoll described Kimmage's abrupt resignation as "unfortunate".
"I have enjoyed working with Paul over the last few years and it is unfortunate that we cannot complete this project together," the Leinster player said, adding: "However, I look forward to working with Alan."
O'Driscoll is not making any further comment.
Speaking last night at the 'Sunday Independent's' 'Sports Off The Page' event, Kimmage revealed why he could no longer work with O'Driscoll.
"It's a big Sunday for Brian and it would have been a big Sunday for me as a newspaper writer," he said at the event in Elverys in Dundrum, Dublin.
Kimmage revealed: "On Thursday I heard there was a possibility that he was talking to someone else.
"I called him up and I said, 'Listen, Brian, if you're not doing interviews, that's fine, but if you are doing interviews, it would really help me if you gave it to the 'Sunday Independent' because they have been extremely generous to me in allowing me the time I need to do this (write the book)."
Kimmage said he basically asked O'Driscoll not to talk to anyone else until after the 'Sunday Independent' article.
"Brian felt that was a concession he couldn't make, he was going to talk to someone else. I felt he was being unreasonable and he felt I was being unreasonable, and that's where we parted," said Kimmage.
Kimmage also admitted to feeling a degree of pressure when it came to writing the autobiography.
"If you had given me any excuse six months ago to get out of doing this I would have taken it. Because I was overawed writing about him."
"He is a sporting god and I can't express more admiration for what he's given us as sports fans. It's quite difficult to capture him and present a portrait that represents him."
He added: "After transcribing 600,000 words I managed to write a block of 20,000 I was happy with because it was innovative, interesting and true to him and true to the person I had met."
Kimmage said he had decided to talk about the reasoning behind his resignation to quell the media furore.
"I think the exact wording of it was 'Paul Kimmage sensationally quits as Brian O'Driscoll's ghost writer'. That's why I've decided to talk about it – to take some of the heat out of it. And explain it in as logical way as I can. And this is the only statement I am going to make."
Last year, O'Driscoll signed a one-year extension with the IRFU and insisted that his book would not be published until he had finished playing rugby.
Alan English – editor of the 'Limerick Leader' and sports author – will now complete the book with O'Driscoll.
He was only brought into the project in recent days and Penguin Ireland said the autobiography would still be completed in time for this autumn.
Alan English said: "I am delighted to work with Brian on his autobiography. It is a privilege to work with such a talented, professional sportsman."
Last night, managing director of Penguin Ireland Michael McLoughlin said: "I would like to thank Paul for the hard work he has put into this project."
By Barry Duggan and Kirsty Blake Knox