Tuesday 19 September 2017

Retirement of O'Connor will leave major void in Connacht

If ever a player epitomised the spirit of Connacht Rugby throughout his playing career it was Johnny O'Connor.

Even in his prime, when playing for Wasps at the London club's zenith, the Galway man made no secret of his desire to return home and throw in his lot with his native province.

I'm not too sure you can put a PR value on the message his return to Galway in 2007 sent out. Both he and ex-Harlequin Gavin Duffy swapped the bright lights of London for their provincial homeland and the Sportsground they loved so well.

To every aspiring young wannabe emerging out west, the message couldn't have been any clearer.

And if Eric Elwood has long been renowned for wearing that rugby heart on his off-field sleeve, then, in O'Connor, he had an on-field extension.

Here, for sure, were two Connacht rugby hearts beating as one.

Had O'Connor and Duffy not returned home it is highly likely that Johnny Muldoon would of necessity have followed a similar path abroad. To that end this trio have been instrumental in laying the foundation for the plethora of young players now coming through the Connacht system.

As the elder statesman of the three, the definitive body-on-the-line flanker is listening to what that well-worn torso is now saying and calling it a day.

Capped 12 times, the former Garbally College schoolboy has been the consummate role model and inspirational professional in every respect.

My own abiding memory will be of a tearaway flanker who, though small in stature, boxed consistently above his weight.

He's a true Connacht legend and will be sorely missed.

irfu right to bypass o'driscoll appeal

The statement by the IRFU declaring their intention not to appeal Brian O'Driscoll's three-week ban for stamping wasn't just the right decision, but the ONLY one.

Irish Independent

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