Sunday 23 April 2017

One small cheque for Leinster, one giant leap for rugby

Every Irish fan has a 'BOD' moment. Here, Jim Glennon recounts his own

Back in August 1997, Leinster coach Mike Ruddock asked me to go to an U20 game between Leinster and Ulster.

I was Leinster manager at the time, and Mike wanted me to look at a youngster who had been training all summer with the senior squad but had been selected out of position for this game -- on the wing instead of his normal centre berth.

Mike was curious to see how he would get on.

Most of my generation have their 'JFK' moment, and the current generation have their '9/11' moment: a clear recollection of precisely where they were when a particularly seismic event took place, and how they dealt with it.

Well, all week, we have been bombarded with 'BOD' moments -- just when or where one first became aware of the force of rugby nature we have come to know as Brian O'Driscoll, the outstanding player in the northern hemisphere for the past decade, one of the sport's all-time greats and, by some distance now, Irish rugby's greatest ever player.

That U20 game in Donnybrook was my BOD moment. I sat in the stand in the company of Tony Ward and we were both awe-struck by the magnificence of the all-round game of the stocky centre in the blue jersey, who appeared to do as he pleased, when he pleased, such was the gulf in class between him and his opponents. After the game, I enquired as to his availability to immediately join the senior squad, only to be told he was unavailable.

It turned out he had a holiday booked and was travelling the following day.

This injected some urgency into matters and, after some wrangling with Leinster branch officials, a cheque was duly produced to reimburse the youngster the cost of his holiday.

He duly joined up with the senior squad, played for the A team in Limerick the following week and, as they say, the rest is history. That £250 cheque must represent the best investment Leinster have ever made.

The manner in which Brian O'Driscoll, the man, has conducted himself off the field while, literally, growing up and maturing in the full glare of the media, has been absolutely exemplary and reflects massive credit, not only on himself, obviously, but on his family too.

He has brought great enjoyment and pride in his achievements to the entire nation, and we applaud him and wish him well for the future.

By the way -- the youngster in whom Mike Ruddock was interested that day didn't do too badly either -- it was Shane Horgan.

Sunday Independent

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