It could be unlucky 13 when we face life without Brian
THIRTEEN. Unlucky for some? It is a number that has never held any fear for Brian O'Driscoll. With 13 on his back, he has struck fear into the minds of many of his opponents. He has traded in the number, thrived in it and it is tied in with his image.
Car dealers won't put 13 as a stand-alone number on car plates in the New Year, but O'Driscoll (33) doesn't need luck or superstition to make 2013 work for him.
It will be a definitive year for the Ireland captain, especially in his personal life. O'Driscoll and his wife Amy are expecting their first child early in the New Year.
"Having his first baby will give Brian a new sense of well-being," said his former Ireland team-mate Alan Quinlan, whose son AJ was born while he was still playing.
Over the next few months, O'Driscoll will make a definitive decision about his own playing career. His current contract with Ireland and Leinster ends in June 2013, although he has hinted about the possibility of playing on for another season.
Unlike some other pro players, this is a call that O'Driscoll has the luxury of making himself.
"He's in a very fortunate position that this decision is his to make. He owes this country nothing, he owes rugby nothing because he's given so much," Quinlan added.
O'Driscoll is already planning for the next stage of his career.
Earlier this year he became a shareholder and mentor in IKON, a talent-management company. While specialising in sport and entertainment, the agency has already signed up stars, including Ireland rugby players Jamie Heaslip and Cian Healy.
O'Driscoll's renowned peripheral vision came into sharp focus when he saw a gap in the world of technology.
Two months ago, he launched his new international rugby app 'Ultimate Rugby', which he helped to create – joining forces with Irish software entrepreneur Ray Nolan.
O'Driscoll has shown that he is 'made-for-TV' with stints as a guest analyst for both Sky Sports and the BBC.
"The draw of Brian is easy, he is one of the most successful, respected and influential rugby players of his generation," said Gus Williamson, an executive rugby producer with Sky Sports.
"His is a name that resonates with the wider sporting public. It's clear that he is smart, sharp and a good communicator."
O'Driscoll's close friend and Presence Communications co-founder Joanne Byrne said she had shown a recording of O'Driscoll being interviewed as a player to her clients in other industries. It highlights how he has mastered the art of saying a lot while revealing little.
In 2013, two testimonial dinners will take place in his honour – in London in March and in Dublin late in the year.
His wide appeal is underlined by the names on his testimonial committee, including Bono, Denis O'Brien, Dermot Desmond and Michael Smurfit Jr. O'Driscoll didn't think of this himself – he was approached about it by people who wanted to acknowledge his achievements.
Even when he is receiving, O'Driscoll is giving. He will make a "substantial contribution" from the proceeds raised at the London testimonial to the IRFU Charitable Trust.
All donations from the Dublin event will go to Temple Street Children's Hospital and the ISPCC. O'Driscoll's magic with children is plain to see from that unforgettable snapshot of him visiting Michaela Morley in Temple Street with the Heineken Cup in 2011.
This month that picture made the international website Buzzfeed's '26 Moments That Restored Our Faith In Humanity This Year'.
"Brian feels there's an onus on him to give something back," said Ms Byrne, who introduced Brian to his wife Amy.
But she added: "People are talking about rugby without Brian, but what about Brian without rugby?"
While O'Driscoll has admitted he would be happy to play house-husband for a while once the rugby is done, former Ireland player and sports agent Niall Woods can't imagine him doing that for too long.
"O'Driscoll is a high achiever," Woods said. "He'll have to find something – I can't see him standing still for too long.
"The ideal scenario is that he will stop playing after the Lions tour. But he's addicted to success. I can see him winning the Lions tour as captain and thinking, 'Right, let's give this another go.'"
He is an outstanding candidate to become only the second player ever to captain the British and Irish Lions twice when they tour Australia next summer.
Just recently, he spoke passionately about wanting to win a Lions series. While his main focus at the moment is getting back playing after ankle surgery, he sounded very much like a Lions captain in waiting to me.
The day will come – it could be in 2013 – when Ireland rugby fans will have to face up to the fear of life without O'Driscoll. But like his approach throughout his rugby career, we should embrace the fear and get on with it.
Sinead Kissane is a sports presenter and reporter with TV3.