O'Driscoll relieved to be able to take the big hits again


HEINEKEN CUP QUARTER-FINALS: GAVIN CUMMISKEYhears Leinster’s talisman confirm the testing tackle by Ospreys’ Tom Smith has reassured him his shoulder has fully recovered

THE BODY of Bod is fully functioning. The Ospreys flanker Tom Smith figured that out for the rest of us.

“Yeah, that was the one,” Brian O’Driscoll confirmed yesterday. The tackle, that is, that proved he is no longer a creaking 33-year-old but merely a man who needed to take five months off to heal. Anyway, Smith smashed O’Driscoll early on in his March 23rd return.

“I slipped into him so I couldn’t get out of there . . . as it was happening I thought (I am) pretty vulnerable falling into the tackle. I went pretty much head-on into him and immediately it felt fine.

“It was a nice reassurance to know you are capable of taking those tackles and not be concerned by them. That does grow your confidence. As each game goes on hopefully I will be able to get back into that physical place of being able to dominate impacts.”

You have seen him since 2010. Playing hurt. Holding that right shoulder, in obvious pain, whenever he was forced to fully commit in contact. “Yeah, no issues with it at all. I’m not trying to hide out on the wing after a big impact (anymore). It was very good. The bite is there in the tackle as well, which was probably missing on that right side over the last couple of seasons so it feels good to be back.”

The group interview at Riverview, Clonskeagh, yesterday morning was a brief chit-chat with the Cardiff Blues in mind. He got to talking about Jamie Roberts and Casey Laulala, the centres that are sure to target his famous nerve endings come Saturday evening’s Heineken Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium (5.45pm). “They’ve great players in the centre in Jamie Roberts and Casey, who is one of the best outside centres around at the moment. I think he is a great signing by Munster.”

An eagle-eyed reporter noticed something. The initials “SH” were stitched into O’Driscoll’s hoodie. What’s this devilry? The plot thickened when another journalist noted Eoin Reddan trotting past with “Horgan” emblazoned across his back. The great winger, affectionately known as “Shaggy”, is not a wet week retired and already the vultures are picking through his carcass. Scandalous. We demanded to know: is that Shane’s top? “Yes, he’s beside me! No, it’s nothing . . . I’m not trying to hold onto him. I realise he’s moved on to pastures new.”

There was a simple reason behind it all. The sun was shining when the Ireland captain walked out his front door at 7am (yes, 7am) so he didn’t bring an additional layer. He must have thought it was still last week. “I didn’t bring a hoodie top, just thought he wouldn’t mind.”

Turns out Shane Horgan uses the cleaning services at Riverview so all his gear is lying around still. “He’s a grown man, he should be able to wash his own clothes,” joked O’Driscoll.

People don’t always see the funny side or they do but still use it as a bridge into a needless question about his wife. He gently deflects and moves on. Of course, it being O’Driscoll and he being injured recently and with tape recorders rolling under his beak, he’s asked for the zillionth time about the end.

“I don’t see any need to put a timeline on when I am going to finish. I spoke to Ronan (O’Gara) the other day and he mentioned 38. He mentioned 38 so people would get off his back and stop asking him as to when he is going to retire. There is no need to be putting a time limit on anyone; if they are in good form and the body is feeling good and mentally they are in a good place I think you play on for as long as possible. Just ask Brad Thorn.”

There is a long-standing theory among the hackery that O’Driscoll needs two, sometimes three full games to heat the engine. Well, he doesn’t have that luxury. It’s April. He did 80 minutes in Limerick on Saturday after 50 the week before and that’s all he’s getting. “It was nice to get 80 minutes at the weekend and feel pretty strong finishing it out. That will help both the lungs and the head; knowing you’re able to go strong for the last five or 10 minutes. Hopefully I won’t let anybody down if selected.”

As if that’s possible.