Thursday 14 December 2017

'I pal around with Felix Jones' - Paul O'Connell enjoying life away from rugby

Will Slattery

Will Slattery

He left the sport with a howl of pain rather than a blaze of glory but that doesn't seem to have soured Paul O'Connell in any way as he goes about building his life after rugby.

The Limerick legend is currently channelling all of the manic energy that used to drive him on the rugby pitch into cleaning up his home city.

The Team Limerick Clean-up takes place in the city today, where O'Connell is urging volunteers to come out and help tidy their local area, while also appealing to local businesses to dispose of waste responsibly.

This initiative is just one of the many ways the legendary Ireland second row is keeping himself busy now that his playing career has come to a close. O'Connell was meant to play this season and the following campaign with Toulon before a horror hamstring tear in Ireland's crucial pool win against France ended his career at last autumn's World Cup.

He has kept a pretty low profile since then, although he did reappear on our screens as a pundit with the BBC during Ireland's Six Nations game in Paris in February.

O'Connell enjoyed the experience and when speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, he admitted that he is open to doing a bit more analysis going forward.

"I don't know," he said when asked if he imagines himself as a pundit in the future.

"I did one of the games over in Paris and I enjoyed it. I feel a bit of a poacher turned gamekeeper but I enjoyed it and it is a way of staying involved."

You would forgive O'Connell if he watched Ireland's recent encounters with a sense of bitterness given how the end of his international career also ended his time on the field entirely, but the former Lions captain says he holds no regrets about how things played out.

"I think if I hadn't been ready to retire I probably would have suffered with it," O'Connell said to Des Cahill on RTE Radio One.

"It was disappointing I couldn't go to France but from an international rugby perspective, I was ready to retire. I wasn't looking at the games thinking I could still be doing it."

Unfortunately for Ireland and Munster, O'Connell's departure has coincided with a dip in form for both. But while both of the lock's former teams are now struggling, Paulie is backing them to eventually get back on track.

"I think there were loads of pluses," O'Connell said about Ireland's recent Six Nations campaign.

"One thing we always looked at so we never got ahead of ourselves was how fine the margins are. In 2014, the bench accumulated 19 points and we won the championship. The margins are really small and they were really, really small for Ireland in the first few games.

"Ireland are going through a small bit of pain now but they are going to be in a brilliant place.

"They [Munster] are going through a bit of pain. It's tough to watch at times. l know them so well and I'm so close to them. We've all been through periods like this in our careers but they just need to stick together and they will come out of it. I do feel sorry for them at the moment."

O'Connell also told Newstalk that he has been getting in the way a bit at home now that he is around so much more, although he did reveal that he has been hanging out with another Munster player whose career was cut short by injury.

"I pal around a lot with Felix Jones," he said.

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