I'll see how I feel about retirement at end of season – O'Driscoll
Published 14/03/2013 | 05:00
BRIAN O'DRISCOLL has lifted the lid on the evolving relationship he has enjoyed with sports psychologist Enda McNulty.
O'Driscoll revealed he first approached the former All-Ireland winner with Armagh more than five years ago because he was suffering from a lack of confidence. That relationship has evolved over the years and he now describes the Ireland team's official psychologist as a "life coach".
"I first went to Enda at the tail end of 2007 when I needed to rediscover my form. I had a massive lack of confidence and it wasn't working for me and I needed to kick-start something," O'Driscoll told Newstalk's 'Off the Ball'.
"While he was reminding me of things I already knew he was making me think about them, which was the important part. Personally I never got the sports psychology thing regarding teams. In a team situation, I think the players are more inclined to give the answer they believe the psychologist is looking for rather than maybe being totally honest.
"I like the one-on-one setting because I can be as open and honest as I want to be and he's not going to judge me."
O'Driscoll also believes that in a group situation the feelings of one player can overshadow the collective, which is a huge danger.
"If I say I'm low in a one-on-one setting I'm not going to have 20 other guys saying 'actually I feel a bit low too'. Or, 'if he's low then I must be low'. Suddenly Jamie says he's low, then we're all low and in a terrible place. That's no good to anyone."
McNulty was appointed official psychologist at the start of the Six Nations and has worked with a lot of the players on an individual basis. O'Driscoll's relationship with him has been an ongoing one since their initial interaction.
"After 2008 I left it off for a while and got on with things. Then I went back just to keep things ticking over. I didn't want to leave it until I was in a bad place and have to start all over again, so it was a case of going to Enda and seeking help in organising my life.
"No player or team is perfect and we're always striving to be better. I went to Enda to seek help in maybe getting that one or 2pc improvement.
"It's about compartmentalising different parts of my life and evolving and with his help I have managed that."
Conversation then turned to talk of his much speculated retirement date. Again, he kicked it to touch and reiterated that he has yet to make a decision, and that Leinster and Ireland have been respectfully giving him distance.
He did, however, give some hope that he might not be ready quite yet to hang up the boots. "To be honest, that line of questioning has been coming for a few years. You get to 30, 31 years of age and it's a case of 'when can we retire him?'," he said.
"I don't know why that is. Now you see sports people like Ryan Giggs, who will be 40 next year. Guys like Brad Thorn, Nathan Hines, Simon Shaw, who is 40 next year. Granted those guys are second-rows but there is an ability if you look after yourself to play on longer.
"That's the big thing. It's about taking care of your body and understanding what works for you. You learn to do more in some areas and less in others.
"With regard to all the retirement stuff I've been answering until I'm blue in the face. It's the same answer ... I'm going to leave it to the end of the season and see how I feel.
"I don't feel like I'm under any pressure to pull the trigger on making the decision. I've been given a bit of slack by Leinster because they can't replace me with a foreigner anyway.
"And, with the Union, I told them I just wanted to play the Six Nations, see how I feel and that I'll make the decision when the time is right.
"I know people must be sick of hearing this, but I'm not lying," he added.
O'Driscoll is also mindful of not going too soon and regretting the decision. And he is also conscious of not falling into the trap of having his eventual retirement become a chore.
"I've seen guys retire and it's been a case of, 'what do I do now?' That's not for me. I have interests outside of rugby and have been cultivating them for when I do decide to hang up the boots."
In the meantime, he has been more than occupied in his downtime with his month-old daughter Sadie providing a welcome and far more important distraction.
"It's great that after games it does become irrelevant what you do on the Saturday. Rugby is hugely important in my life but not as important as what's happening at home with a new daughter.
"It's exciting to get home after an international and know that I won't be judged in my performance.
"I arrived home last weekend with a dead leg, a concussion and a cut ear but she didn't care much, she still wanted her nosebag at 11pm, 3am and 7am and decided I was the man for the job."
O'Driscoll will be named in the Ireland team to play Italy in Rome on Saturday later today.