Brian O’Driscoll and Jackie Tyrrell show us what it takes to get to stay at the top
The sports might be different but the true greats all share the same qualities
With the way he conducted himself off the field regarding his non selection for the third Lions Test, Brian O’Driscoll showed the qualities that have enabled him to stay at the top for so long. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Even with everything that Jackie Tyrell has done in the game, he and his team-mates were hungry for the challenge of Tipperary on Saturday. Photograph: Inpho
On a weekend like the one just gone, you’d live a poor life if you had no interest in sport.
As well as going to Killarney on Sunday, I spent most of Saturday watching the Lions and Cats go about their business. It meant that for a lot of the weekend, I was thinking about why we admire sportsmen who are at the very top of their game. What is it about them that appeals to us so much?
One of them wasn’t even playing. But at the same time, no Irish person watched the Lions on Saturday morning without having some sort of thought of Brian O’Driscoll in their mind.
We’ve seen him do everything over the years and even if you’ve only a small understanding of rugby, you can see why he’s regarded as one of the best. There’s a bravery about him, not just in the physical stakes but also in taking it upon himself to lead when it’s needed.
But we never saw him have to react to being dropped before last week. It’s something every sportsman can relate to.
Getting dropped from any team in any sport is an insult to your personal pride, no matter what way the manager dresses it up for you. And when it’s for the biggest game of the year, there’s no worse insult. You are basically being told that when the stakes are highest, he prefers to put his trust in somebody else. That kind of thinking would be alien to somebody like Brian O’Driscoll.
He must have been raging inside. How could he not be? I was looking at him thinking that I’d love to get chatting to him after a few pints to find out what he really thought about the situation.
But that’s probably the only way you’d get it out of him because the one thing he was never going to do was hang his team out to dry by cribbing about it the week of the biggest game of the tour.
It’s that class that people admire. That sort of quiet dignity to not make it about himself when all anyone was talking about was him.
Ever since he started, life for O’Driscoll has been about doing the big thing in the big game. It’s been about being the man people turn to when everything is on the line.
He must have wanted to scream from the rooftops about it. But he never said a word. He got behind his team.
People talk a lot about role models in sport. Whatever they mean to the outside world, role models within a dressing room are hugely important. The way the biggest name carries himself is the simplest example for everyone coming after him to follow.
Colm Cooper had Séamus Moynihan, Séamus Moynihan had Maurice Fitzgerald. If O’Driscoll hadn’t reacted so well, Warren Gatland dropping him could have caused ructions in the dressing room. But the way he handled it was an example to everyone. The team comes first.