Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Brian O'Driscoll truly does have it all

New life of Brian: Brian O'Driscoll with daughter Sadie  in Australia
New life of Brian: Brian O'Driscoll with daughter Sadie in Australia

The Late Late Show had some line up last week. Maybe not the wall to wall Hollywood superstars of Graham Norton, but impressive nevertheless.

Colin Farrell, Steve Coogan, Jose Carreras and Gok Wan were guests on the chat show, which like Norton's show, is screened on a Friday night.

In case you've never seen it, it's on RTE and is not dissimilar to Gerry Kelly's interview and music based programme on UTV many moons ago.

Anyway now that you have got the picture, back to Friday night and that guest list topped off by Irish rugby great Brian O'Driscoll, who was on to chat with presenter Ryan Tubridy about his last year as a player before retirement, the Lions tour of Australia in the summer and his family.

I love O'Driscoll.

As a player he's the best I've seen in a green shirt with as much heart as talent, which oozes out of his every pore when he takes to the pitch.

He's like a bear in the tackle and as cunning as a fox with ball in hand.

Now 34, the Dubliner may not have the pace of old, but when he sees the try line with those Irish eyes he remains a potent finisher and with the passing years has become even more adept at carving out scores for grateful team-mates.

For his province Leinster and his country, he has been a hero for almost a decade and a half winning Pro 12 titles, Heineken Cups, Triple Crowns and a Grand Slam.

As a person, he's an engaging character filled with self belief and is in my top 10 favourite interviewees, even if our hour long conversation came in the none too glamorous surroundings of a tiny store room above Gordons Chemist in Belfast.

That day, as a nod to a game he and his Irish team-mates played in press conferences, he asked me to include the word 'skateboard' in the feature.

The guy's got a sense of humour too. What's not to like!

In the summer though O'Driscoll wasn't to Warren Gatland's taste ahead of the third and deciding Test between the British and Irish Lions and Australia.

Amazingly with the series tied, the vastly experienced O'Driscoll was dropped. He didn't even make the bench.

The wailing was such in Dublin that it seemed a ship load of banshees had invaded the fair city.

The Lions won the Test and O'Driscoll's omission suddenly didn't seem so outrageous.

In an interview recently, Brian said that Gatland wouldn't be on his Christmas card list. Thinking better off it, he revealed last Friday night that in their next meeting he handed the Lions coach a Christmas Card. Class.

BOD also talked about how, while feeling hurt and disappointed by being left out, he was able to find more perspective than he would have done previously, because having become a dad a few months before he realised there were more important things in life.

As he talked, you could almost see his eyes glaze over deep in thought about his little darling daughter Sadie, as his actress wife Amy looked on in the audience.

Perspective. It is the hardest commodity to find in sport.

Heck, it's not easy to find in any walk of life.

When O'Driscoll saw Sadie's eyes looking up at him from a hospital ward in Dublin for the first time, just hours before he was due to play a Six Nations match against England in February, a wave of excitement came over him.

He talked about being in his own world as he prepared to take on the English at the Aviva stadium. He entered that match with a new peace of mind.

Forget trophies and medals. If as a player or coach amid all the emotion, ecstacy and agony, they can manage to locate perspective, he or she will always be a champion.

Of course O'Driscoll will give everything when he recovers from injury to play this season.

Always the team man he will want success for both Leinster and Ireland, and personal pride will dictate his desire to end a stellar career on a high.

He'll know now though that a scoreline is not the be all and end all.

As fans we are all passionate about our favourite teams and can get high and low with their results.

Weekends are ruined and made on results.

Sport is magical, but we need perspective too.

Family and health are what really counts.

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