Wednesday 3 June 2015

13 things you didn't know- or had forgotten- about Brian O'Driscoll

Published 09/03/2014 | 02:30

Brian O'Driscoll, Brian O'Meara and Victor Costello celebrate Leinster's victory over Munster in the 2001 Celtic League final
Brian O'Driscoll, Brian O'Meara and Victor Costello celebrate Leinster's victory over Munster in the 2001 Celtic League final
Brian O'Driscoll in action for Blackrock College in 1997
Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland is tackled by Daniel Herbert, Australia, Australia v Ireland, Subiaco Oval, Perth in 1999 in one of his first caps
Brian O'Driscoll on his way to scoring his first ever try for Ireland against the USA in the 1999 Rugby World Cup
Brian O'Driscoll scores his first Six Nations try against Scotland in 2000 at Landsdowne Road
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates one of his three tries against France in 2000.
19 March 2000; Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll leaves french full back Emile Ntamack behind to score his third try
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates victory over France in the 2000 Six Nations
Brian O'Driscoll in action against the Springboks in 2000
Brian O'Driscoll makes his Barbarians debut in 2000
Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Henderson and Keith Wood joke around during the 2001 Lions tour
British and Irish Lions player Brian O'Driscoll breaks away to score the third try against Australia during the First Test match at The Gabba, Brisbane, 30th June 2001.
Brian O'Driscoll on his way to scoring his famous try against Australia in the First Test of the 2001 Lions Series.
Brian O'Driscoll tries to get out of a ruck in a game against Australia in 2002
Brian O'Driscoll, Shane Horgan and Denis Hickie celebrate victory over Australia in 2002
Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland, kicks a drop goal in the narrow defeat to Australia at the 2003 Rugby World Cup
Brian O'Driscoll dives over in the corner for a try against Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates after Ireland's victory over England in Twickenham in 2004
Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with coach Eddie O'Sullivan at the end of the game versus Scotland in Lansdowne Road in 2004 after winning the Triple Crown
Brian O'Driscoll is forced to leave the field after being the victim of a spear tackle that ended his Lions Tour in 2005
BOD holds the Triple Crown trophy aloft after victory over England at Twickenham
Ireland's captain Brian O'Driscoll holds aloft the Triple Crown following the match against England at Twickenham, March 18, 2006.
Brian O'Driscoll dots down against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in 2007
Brian O'Driscoll dives over to score Ireland's first try during the final Pool D match at Parc des Princes in Paris during the 2007 Rugby World Cup
Brian O'Driscoll scores a brilliantly improvised try for Leinster against Wasps in the Pool Stages of the 2008/09 Heineken Cup
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll tackles Munster's Paul O'Connell during the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final in Croke Park.
Brian O'Driscoll races clear of Munster’s Ronan O’Gara, whose pass he intercepted, on his way to scoring his side’s third try in Leinster's Heineken Cup semi-final win at Croke Park in 2009
Rocky Elsom with team-mate Brian O'Driscoll in 2009 after Leinster's first Heineken Cup success
Brian O'Driscoll, Rocky Elsom, Felipe Contepomi and Gordon D'Arcy celebrate after Leinster's Heineken Cup victory in 2009
Brian O'Driscoll (centre) of Leinster raises the Heineken Cup after winning the Heineken Cup Final between Leicester Tigers and Leinster at Murrayfield on May 23, 2009
Brian with the Six Nations and Triple Crown trophies following Ireland's success in 2009
Brian O’Driscoll captained Ireland to first Grand Slam in 61 years
Brian O'Driscoll in action for the British and Irish Lions in 2009. Photo: Getty Images
Brian O’Driscoll and Amy Huberman tied the knot in July 2010.
Shane Horgan lifting the Heineken Cup with Brian O’Driscoll in 2011. Sportsfile
Shane Horgan celebrates winning the 2011 Heineken Cup with team-mate and friend Brian O'Driscoll
Joe Schmidt with Brian O’Driscoll after the 2011 Heineken Cup final victory.
Brian O'Driscoll trudges off the pitch following Ireland's defeat to Wales in the Rugby World Cup Quarter final in 2011
Gordon D'Arcy, left, and Brian O'Driscoll, Leinster celebrate Leinster's victory in the Heineken Cup in 2011
19 May 2012; Brian O'Driscoll, Leinster, celebrates after the game. Heineken Cup Final, Leinster v Ulster, Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, England. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Brian O'Driscoll celebrates after victory over Ulster. Heineken Cup Final, Leinster v Ulster, Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, England. Photo: Sportsfile
Brian O'Driscoll shows his delight at winning the Lions Test series in Australia last year despite being omitted from the final test.
Brian O'Driscoll and his daughter Sadie following the British & Irish Lions victory last year
Brian O'Driscoll throws his boots into the crowd as he celebrates Leinster's win in the Rabodirect Pro12 Grand final last year at the RDS
Brian O'Driscoll on his great partnership with D'Arcy
Brian O'Driscoll sits in the sin bin during Ireland's Six Nations defeat to Italy last year
Brian O'Driscoll: Ireland's most capped centre has suffered multiple high-profile head injuries down the years, most notably during a game against England in 2009
Brian O'Driscoll and his father Frank. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Brian O'Driscoll reacts to the final minute try that helped New Zealand to a 24-22 win at the Aviva last November. BOD never tasted victory over the All Blacks.
Brian O'Driscoll is given a guard of honour at his final captain's run at the Aviva
Brian O'Driscoll, Ireland, celebrates with team-mate Andrew Trimble, Rob Kearney and Dave Kearney at the final whistle.
Brian O'Driscoll
Brian O'Driscoll celebrates Photo: Gerry Mooney
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton, left, and Brian O'Driscoll celebrates with the trophy following their side's victory
Brian O'Driscoll of Leinster, looks on during the Heineken Cup quarter final match between Toulon and Leinster in April
Brian O'Driscoll and Eoin Reddan leave the pitch in dejection after Leinster were crushed by Toulon in the Heineken Cup quarter-final

Saturday was an emotional day for Brian O'Driscoll – and the sport-loving public – as he ran out onto the Aviva Stadium turf for the final time.

The 35-year-old centre has had an extraordinary career for Ireland and Leinster and has been pivotal in helping to make rugby so popular in this country.

But his talents are such that even those who have never sat down to watch him in action, are likely to be aware of the acclaim in which he is held. He has truly transcended his sport – and sport in general.

Here – in deference to his famous playing number – we present 13 titbits from a life less ordinary.

1 He may have been mistakenly thought of as the inspiration for Ross O'Carroll Kelly in the past, but the notion that Brian O'Driscoll hails from rugby's southside Dublin heartland persists. O'Driscoll was born and bred in Clontarf in the northside of the city and barely played the oval ball game until he went to the celebrated rugby nursery, Blackrock College, from the age of 12. He is devoted to Manchester United and his boyhood hero was Mark Hughes. "I loved him for his temperament, his aggression, and the fact that he just couldn't score ordinary goals," he once said.

2 Despite an early fixation with football, O'Driscoll hails from a family steeped in rugby. His father, Frank, played two games for Ireland and an uncle, Barry, won four caps. But it was his other uncle, John, who really put the O'Driscoll name on the map: he represented Ireland 26 times and was a member of the Lions side who toured in 1980 and 1983. Frank is a GP based in Clontarf and has played an important role in managing his son's off-field deals. He has also been an outspoken critic of rugby's overly long season and pressures on concussed players to play on.

3 There is a story – possibly apocryphal – which has it that a member of the public once approached O'Driscoll to playfully point out that despite all his success on the global stage, he did not have a Leinster Schools Senior Cup medal. What is true is that O'Driscoll , left, never got to play in a final having been an unused replacement when Blackrock College won the competition in 1996. He captained the school the following year, only to be knocked out in the quarter finals. During his first year at UCD, future glories were signalled when he played in the Ireland team that won the U-19 World Cup.

4 O'Driscoll transcended his sport when he turned in an extraordinary performance against France in Paris in the inaugural Six Nations Championship. His hat-trick of tries remains a career highlight and put Ireland on the road to a resounding win against the French. After each score, he formed a circular symbol with his hands and although he remained coy about its significance, some speculated that it was intended for his girlfriend back home in Dublin. The performance at the Stade de France opened the marketing floodgates that would make O'Driscoll Irish rugby's pinup boy for the remainder of the decade.

5 While it was easy to understand O'Driscoll's appeal to companies of all hues, his willingness to accommodate the needs of sponsors saw him criticised by some – and pilloried by others. In 2004, during a post-match interview on RTÉ, he displayed an enthusiasm for taking swigs from a bottle of Powerade (one of his sponsors) that was mercilessly lampooned by pundit George Hook. And in a striking shoot for Adidas compression underwear around the same time, one tabloid reproduced an especially "revealing" photo under a headline which read "Does my bum look big in this?"

6 O'Driscoll followed in the footsteps of his uncle John when he was picked for the Lions tour of Australia in 2001. He furthered his cause as a player of rare skill when he scored a breathtaking try against the hosts. He would captain the Lions in their tour of New Zealand four years later, but his tournament lasted less than a minute when he was the victim of a cynical spear tackle at the hands of Tana Umaga and Kevin Mealamu. He bumped into Umaga in Nice in 2009 and the pair shook hands. "We didn't talk about it," O'Driscoll said at the time. "It was very much swept under the carpet."

7 O'Driscoll's short-lived 2005 Lions tour was also bad news for the publisher, Penguin, who had commissioned a book that would largely focus on the Dubliner's feats against the All Blacks. Nonetheless, A Year in the Centre was published later in 2005. A career-spanning biography, also commissioned by Penguin, is likely to be in the shops for Christmas 2014 but it has not been without its difficulties. Ex-pro cyclist Paul Kimmage, who had been working on the book for two years in a ghost-writing capacity, withdrew his services last month after irreconcilable differences. He has been replaced by Limerick Leader editor Alan English.

8 Brian O'Driscoll has been a voracious user of Twitter for several years and has more than 400,000 followers, including members of his beloved Man United. Although the bulk of his tweets adopt a cheerful, genial tone he is not afraid to use the social medium to hit out when he feels he has been wronged. A case in point happened on the days leading up to the Six Nations opener against Scotland when he expressed his anger at BT Sports and host Craig Doyle over a tweet sent from the UK broadcaster. He has also inspired innumerable hashtags. Two of the most popular this week are #bodisgod and #replacegodwithbod.

9 O'Driscoll's 2010 marriage to the high-profile actress and sometime author, Amy Huberman, has drawn lazy comparisons with David and Victoria Beckham. "People are clutching at straws for comparisons if that's the case," he has said. "Maybe it's because I did the stupid blonde thing a few years ago." Attempts by some showbiz reporters to give the pair the Brangelina-style portmanteau "Bramy" have failed to capture the public's imagination. O'Driscoll has had to get used to tabloid interest in his private life: a previous relationship – with the model-turned-TV presenter Glenda Gilson – ensured he was also a fixture on the front pages.

10 Much like those of the former-Man United icon Eric Cantona, O'Driscoll's words of wisdom have been picked over time and again. His most oft-quoted line was delivered at a press conference at Croke Park before an England match in 2009: "Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad." Yet, it turns out that these words had been given to him by the IRFU kit man Patrick "Rala" O'Reilly as a Quote of the Day. Gordon D'Arcy had wagered with O'Driscoll that he wouldn't be able to shoehorn a reference to it in the press conference. "It wasn't a monetary bet," he later told a journalist. "I can't tell you what it was for."

11 The aforementioned Rala is a highly popular figure among Ireland's top players and his recently published memoir, A Life in Rugby, lifts the lid on some of O'Driscoll's foibles – including a love of chocolate and fatty food that's usually prohibited for athletes on calorie-controlled regimens. O'Driscoll is known as something of a creature of habit – always the last player to call to Rala's hotel room at around 11 on the night before a match to collect his playing kit. "It's a chance to chat to Rala about something and nothing, listen to a story or nibble away on a piece of chocolate," he writes in A Life in Rugby. "That time in his company is very dear to me."

12 O'Driscoll has already demonstrated a prowess in business to rival his achievements on the pitch. His company, ODM Productions, recently reported profits of €3m. Besides his lucrative endorsements, he is a 45pc shareholder in the smartphone app, Ultimate Rugby, which he founded with Irish software tycoon Ray Nolan. He is also a significant shareholder of the Ikon Talent Management Agency, which negotiates deals on behalf of other stars including Jamie Heaslip and Cian Healy. "There have been a couple of things I've been involved in launching that have been a bit more public," he said, "but I've always had other things tipping away in the background."

13 With O'Driscoll hanging up his boots at the end of this season – unless he has a last-minute rethink – he will be able to spend more time with his daughter, Sadie, who was born in Holles Street, Dublin, in February, a few hours before the Six Nations Clash with England up the road in the Aviva Stadium. It was a bittersweet day for O'Driscoll, as Ireland lost the game. Later in the year, Sadie was taken to Australia for the Lions' last game, although it too was bittersweet: O'Driscoll found himself on a winning Lions tour for the first time, but he was controversially dropped by Warren Gatland , above, for the crucial decider.

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