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It is the worst injury pain I've had: Paul O'Connell

By Cian Tracey

One by one the Ireland players re-emerge into the media spotlight and try as they might to convince that the pain of the World Cup exit has been parked, the memories haven't disappeared that quickly.

Yesterday, it was the turn of Devin Toner, Jack McGrath and Paul O'Connell on what was his first public appearance since having his international career cruelly cut short by an injury suffered against France.

The sight of the talismanic skipper attempting to get to his feet despite just having ripped his hamstring clean off the bone is one particular, unfortunate image that will stay with Irish supporters for some time yet.

Like a prized racehorse who had fallen at the final jump, O'Connell knew his race was run and he now faces up to eight months on the sidelines as his new journey with Toulon is firmly put on hold.

O'Connell may well not feature for the French giants at all this season and he will certainly miss Toulon's back-to-back European dates with Leinster next month.

"I am and I am not," Toner smiled when asked if he was disappointed not to be coming up against the player who mentored him throughout his early international career.

"That would have been nice, to go up against him, but at the same time I'd rather not as well!"

O'Connell's influence over Toner is one that typifies how highly he is regarded by each of his team-mates.

Strapped by a heavy leg brace, O'Connell will be ambling along on crutches for some time yet. The surgery that he underwent was a success but he now faces, in his own words, the biggest challenge of his career as he looks to fight back to full fitness at the ripe old age of 36.

The move to the south of France is still pencilled in to go ahead next month but it will be some time yet before he is seen in a different shade of red.

"It's the worst injury pain that I've had," O'Connell admitted.

"Its funny the amount of things that go through your head when it happens.

"I was thinking of when Eoin Reddan broke his ankle at the Aviva, I remember him trying to get up, so I was thinking of myself on the ground and I'd only pulled a hamstring so I thought I better get up.

"But it was too sore. And then when the physio and the doctor came on, I was thinking the same again, that I've only pulled my hamstring, I surely don't need to be stretchered off.

"I've never been stretchered off in my career, so I got up, but that was too sore and I went back down and I got stretchered off."

It was a sorry way for O'Connell's glittering 13-year international career to come to an end and while he also ruled himself out of the 2017 Lions tour, Toner reckons that such is his professionalism, the Limerick native will be back in action sooner than people think.

Toner added: "I wouldn't be surprised if it's five or six months, to be honest.

"He follows his protocols religiously, he's the most professional man you'd ever come across and I think he'll do everything 110/120%.

"If he's hitting his targets towards the end of the season then I think he'll do his best to get back, to be honest, because I think he's got a lot of pressure on his shoulders there in Toulon and he'll want to impress there as well."

Belfast Telegraph


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