BECOMING a father is Brian O'Driscoll's greatest achievement, the rugby hero has revealed.
Speaking candidly for the first time about the birth of Sadie, he said: "That was 100pc the greatest achievement of my life."
But the former Irish captain has admitted he was not able to provide the leadership needed during the Six Nations defeat to England a fortnight ago, the day his daughter was born.
The Ireland centre, usually one of the most focused men in international rugby, had to leave the team hotel at 8.30am, hours before kick-off at Lansdowne Road, after a call from his wife Amy Huberman.
Speaking for the first time about the events, he admitted: "I don't even remember a lot of the game and I was in my own world for much of the time.
"It was the sort of match that needed a bit of leadership from me but which I wasn't quite able to deliver. It was all quite bizarre. I didn't make any great errors but I didn't add a huge amount either."
But returning to the birth of his daughter, he said: "Of course rugby has been and is important. But it's eclipsed at every level by a long, long way when you have a child.
"Games will come and go but some things are here to stay. It dominates your life. I would have thought a lot about rugby matters at this time of year.
"Now I don't have time to think about rugby at all. That's no bad thing, perhaps, with the results we've had over the past couple of weeks."
He recalled how the call from Amy came through early on the Sunday morning of the game.
"The phone went at 8.30am and I saw Amy's name flash up and I knew then we were under way," said O'Driscoll. "She was unbelievably calm, a lot more so than I was. I rushed to the (Holles Street maternity) hospital, Sadie was born (by caesarean section), we all had an hour together and then I had to pack a bag and go to play rugby.
"It was very weird. The management had given me until 1.15pm. I was back at the Shelbourne Hotel by midday. I didn't want to talk to anyone but I had to wolf down my food to refuel in time for kick-off.
"I was playing a game of that importance and yet, in an instant, my whole perspective had changed. This most wonderful thing had happened. Everything else paled into insignificance."
Even defeat to England had lost its acute tinge. "Sure, any loss to England is a sore one. But right after the game my mind switched back over to my wife and newborn daughter. I went straight there and didn't give the game another thought.
"At about 11 that night I met up with Shane Horgan and Denis Hickie for a couple of beers to mark the occasion."
O'Driscoll (34) says his body is in good order after various operations in the past year, and that he has made no decision regarding retirement. "My mind wants to keep playing but it will come down to how many more hits and contacts I can take." But he did admit to some regrets – "never beating the All Blacks and never getting to a World Cup semi-final".