Tuesday 20 March 2018

Clarke calls on O'Connell to set the tone for Ryder skirmishes

Paul O'Connell. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Paul O'Connell. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Rugby fan Darren Clarke wants 'Ireland's Call' to be Europe's call to action against the USA, and that's why he drafted in former Irish Lions captain Paul O'Connell as a motivational speaker last night.

O'Connell, a legend in Irish and international rugby, typifies the spirit in which Clarke hopes Europe will perform against favourites USA in a highly charged atmosphere at the 41st Ryder Cup match.

'Shoulder to shoulder' is a line from 'Ireland's Call', the anthem that honours the unity of Irish rugby on an island divided politically and historically into the 26 counties of the Republic, and the six counties of Northern Ireland.

Most Americans and possibly some of the continental European players might not have been hugely aware of O'Connell, but Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and the British contingent know all about the mighty man from Limerick.

Capped 108 times for his country, the ex-Munster, Ireland and Lions player is renowned for his leadership qualities, and has been called in by a number of GAA teams to offer his thoughts on preparation and performance.

Read more: McIlroy steps into leadership role as talisman for Europeans

Clarke outlined his thinking on the call-up for O'Connell.

"Part of my whole thought process for this week is shoulder to shoulder, one team, one unit, and as you know, shoulder to shoulder with the rugby background that I have as well, it resonated with me.

"There's no finer an example of shoulder to shoulder than Paul O'Connell.

"He has legendary status both at home and in terms of leading the Lions who obviously always play away from home.

"So with us being away from home, he was my option and choice to come and address the team this evening," he said.

Prior to meeting the European team, O'Connell, an 11-handicap member of Limerick and Lahinch Golf Clubs tested his nerve in a different environment - the Celebrity Ryder Cup match.

He partnered One Direction star Niall Horan (9) against musician Huey Lewis (6.5) and actor Bill Murray.

Earlier, USA captain Davis Love III had addressed the "12 best players in the world" comment that caused some raised eyebrows in the European set-up.

"The question wasn't, how do you rank this team in history?

"It was, what are you going to tell your team to fire them up?

"So I would still tell them the same thing, 'You're a great team, let's go out there and have some fun, play your game, don't get in your own way.'

"It's just unfortunate that, you know, in that nice conversation, that it got misconstrued," said Love.

Irish Independent

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