Wednesday 22 January 2020

It could have been whole different game for player

Barry Duggan

HAD it not been for a persuasive rugby coach in secondary school, Paul O'Connell's sporting career might have taken a different path.

The son of Michael and Sheila was an accomplished golfer and swimmer as a teenager.

Growing up in Drombanna, on the outskirts of Limerick, he was brought to play rugby with Young Munster's Under Eights and won under-age medals with South Liberties GAA club.

The youngest of three brothers, he was a member of the Seal Swimming Club where some spoke of him of as a future Olympian.

By the age of 16, Mr O'Connell was playing golf off a four handicap -- an achievement most amateur golfers will never accomplish in their lifetime.

However, while attending Ard Scoil Ris in Limerick city, rugby coach Des Harty guided the young sportsman toward the oval ball.

From there he went on to win his first Irish schoolboy rugby cap at the age of 18 playing against Scotland at Thomond Park.

The cap is one of his family's most cherished possessions and is framed at his home.

Mr O'Connell is well known by rugby fans for his motivational words to teammates before matches.

His best-known speech came before the 2007 Six Nations clash against France at Croke Park when he urged his teammates to "put the fear of God in them".

Unfortunately, Ireland lost the match in the dying stages of a fiercely contested encounter.

Mr O'Connell has captained Munster, Ireland and the Lions rugby teams and studied computer engineering at University of Limerick.

He has a son, Paddy (2), with girlfriend Emily O'Leary.

Irish Independent

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