Tuesday 21 January 2020

Here's to one last year for heroic rugby legend O'Driscoll

IT surely says something about Brian O'Driscoll's place in the national psyche that the only sliver of negativity to follow yesterday's confirmation of a new one-year deal with the IRFU came in expressions of worry for his long-term health.

O'Driscoll has come to represent Leinster and Ireland in such a selfless, unequivocal way, that the potential collateral damage to his body of another season in professional rugby seemed the only issue to energise concern in callers to last night's radio phone-ins.

Injury will prevent him from starting tonight's Amlin Challenge Cup final against Stade Francais in the RDS and, at the age of 34, he already has venerable status in a sport that now exposes its top-rank participants to extraordinary levels of physicality.

Yet O'Driscoll, when fit, has maintained a remarkable level of performance that in recent weeks had Leinster supporters chanting "one more year, one more year" almost every time he touched the ball. That level of performance was recognised, too, in his inclusion as the oldest of the 37 players who Lions coach Warren Gatland selected for this summer's tour to Australia.

In many ways, it became unthinkable that O'Driscoll's final game with Ireland would go down in history as a first ever Six Nations defeat to Italy in Rome's Stadio Olimpico on March 16. And the subsequent appointment of Leinster coach Joe Schmidt as successor to Declan Kidney seemed to signpost yet another reason for our greatest rugby player to suspend any retirement thoughts for at least a year.

So those who love the game will rejoice at the news that O'Driscoll is to continue. And those who fear he has already put his battered body through far too much for club and country, will pray that – come the day – he gets to stride, injury-free, into a golden sunset.

Irish Independent

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