Brian O’Driscoll totally at ease with himself as endgame looms
Second Six Nations title last March makes it easier for legendary figure to stop playing
He’s had months to muse over his decision to retire, and as the endgame to his illustrious 15-year career looms ever closer – there are now just two or three games to go – Brian O’Driscoll is also increasingly content to be doing so. That second Six Nations title with Ireland has left him feeling more at ease with himself.
“I have total contentment on having made it, and I know it’s the right call, all the more to be able to finish the way we did in Paris. That makes it easier to walk away. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard watching the guys in the World Cup in 18 months’ time, because that’ll be tough. A little part of you will always wonder ‘could I have gotten there?’
“But it’s very hard to argue with the finish we managed a couple of months back. I’ll have to just deal with that rather than concern myself with what else could have been. I won’t get selfish at this point.”
Asked to name career highlights when interviewed on stage by Scott Quinnell at the IRUPA awards on Wednesday night, O’Driscoll only made mention of the Grand Slam in 2009, but there could have been no better way to round off the most-capped career in the history of Test rugby than by nailing down a second title last March, and thereby ensuring the former was not a one-off.
“I’ve said it before, many people do win one of a competition, but considerably less win two. That goes for the Heineken, World Cups; very few players have won two World Cups, Timmy Horan, maybe and one or two others. When you look at that, the second one is very important, considering the amount of seconds we had in the Six Nations as well”
Even so, he knows it will be a huge wrench to leave the game that has dominated his life since his teens, all the more so as he loved the training and the camaraderie as much as the games.
“That’s why I want to take a break away from it completely and not be a part of anything,” he explained of his decision to take at least three months completely away from rugby.
“It has dictated my life for 15 years and that’s been great but I want to see what it’s like to not have it dictate your life too.”
“Whether I enjoy that – hopefully I will – I want to make myself happy by doing something else and hopefully that will still be in some sporting context. It’s about finding out whether I miss it terribly or whether I can deal with the fact that I’m not part of something special. I’m waiting to see what happens after this time off. Then I’ll go on my gut as to whether I’d like to have more of an involvement or whether I made an error leaving the game.”
O’Driscoll appears more inclined to retain some kind of connection with the game, and didn’t rule out a mentoring role within Leinster, but was less enthused by the vagueness of an ambassadorial role.
“We haven’t gone into what that entails; that depends on lots of scenarios. That’s just something that has been floated and a passion and interest that I would like to show rather than anything coming necessarily from their end.
“To step away completely from it and be gone-gone is hard. Shane (Horgan) was back at the weekend and had an involvement in the (Leinster) awards ceremony and I think it’s important that ex-players stay involved from that point of view because going forward you want to have that connection, that ability to still be part of something that was special. It’s good for the club and it’s good for the individual.”
The next few weeks will be about the blue of his home province, with Leinster seeking to earn home advantage for the semi-finals, and hopefully a final, with which to end his career, by beating Edinburgh at the RDS tomorrow. His loyalty has been rewarded with three Heineken Cups and three League titles in each of its Celtic /Magners/Rabo Pro12 guises.
“There have been astronomical changes,” he said of his 15 years playing for Leinster.
“An attitude change which largely was a work ethic and a understanding of marrying talent with hard work and there is nothing quite like that. It has meant everything to me being here because it’s my province. .
“To be able to make the progression from where we were in the early days in ’99, when our level of professionalism was laughable, to where we are now in this set up, it is very satisfying to have been part of that transition. And to have managed to win some of those trophies along the way and put Leinster out there and onto a little bit of a pedestal in European and maybe world rugby at club level, it is special to know that I was part of that.”