Tuesday 23 January 2018

Exclusive - Brian O'Driscoll on the Conor McGregor phenomenon...and his comparisons with Roy Keane

Brian O'Driscoll spoke to Independent.ie's Kevin Palmer at a BT Sport event in London
Brian O'Driscoll spoke to Independent.ie's Kevin Palmer at a BT Sport event in London
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Brian O’Driscoll has backed Conor McGregor to return to Ireland as hero after this weekend’s showdown with Floyd Mayweather, even is beaten on his professional boxing debut in Les Vegas.

The Ireland rugby legend gave the Independent.ie his verdict on a fight that has divided the sporting world, as he admitted he was ‘flabbergasted’ McGregor has managed to talk his way into a showdown with one of boxing’s all-time greats.

One of this nation’s all-time sporting icons also answered the question over whether McGregor is representing his country in the appropriate manner after last month’s controversial press tour that led to both fighters being accused of using racist and sexist slurs.

O’Driscoll among those who opted to side-step those public displays of vulgarity, yet the Leinster legend admits he is captivated by McGregor’s masterful skills of self-promotion that have helped to turn him into a multi-millionaire.

“I am intrigued by him, I think we all are,” began BT Sport pundit O’Driscoll.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of MMA, but I admire how McGregor has managed to position himself and made the most of his situation. He has done a great job on that.

“I wouldn’t be in agreement with a lot of things he says, far from it. After hearing what was said on the first two nights of the press tour last month, I didn’t want to watch that.

“Yet when it comes down to it, Mayweather is up against a master of the promotional art here.

“You might not like what Conor is saying, but the way it is delivered, there is an intelligence to it.

“This is all part of what McGregor does and it is amazing to think that he has managed procure a fight with the pound-for-pound greatest living boxer. It’s just incredible.

“They say he is in line to make $100m out of this and if he does, good luck to him.”

O’Driscoll admits McGregor faces an almost impossible challenge to overcome the unbeaten Mayweather as he makes his boxing debut, but he insists a defeat will not tarnish his sporting legacy.

Conor McGregor training in Vegas
Conor McGregor training in Vegas

“It doesn’t matter what anyone says about him and his reputation will be in tact whatever the outcome against Mayweather,” he stresses.

“Let’s put this into perspective; he is doing another sport against one of the all-time greats and this is his debut as a boxer. I mean, it’s absolutely flabbergasting that this is going ahead.

“This would be like me trying to take on one of the best in the world at another ball sport against the best in the world, but I wouldn’t be in danger of getting laid out.”

O’Driscoll believes McGregor’s firebrand personality is comparable to that of Roy Keane, with the former Manchester United and Ireland captain an equally divisive figure during his stunning soccer career.

“Roy Keane may be the closest we have had to McGregor in terms of their personalities,” added the United fan O’Driscoll.

“Roy was out on his own and said what he thought. He still does to this day. I was a fan of his and still would say I’m a fan of his.

“What you see is what you get with people like Roy and McGregor, but I think there is a different public and private version of Roy Keane.

“I think we would be doing his a disservice to say he puts on a show for the cameras, but my experiences from meeting him in person are very different to what I we all see on TV.

“Keane and McGregor are a highly-strung and show passion for what they do. They are qualities that Irish people love.”

Brian O’Driscoll will be part of BT Sport’s rugby coverage this season which will include Aviva Premiership, European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup action.

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