Brian O'Driscoll: Shane Lowry win a huge boost for Irish sport
Former Ireland captain praises golfer for ‘climbing his Everest’ in the British Open
Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Carragher launch Sports Extra on Sky on Wednesday. Photograph: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Brian O’Driscoll managed a snatched conversation with Shane Lowry on the range at Royal Portrush – he spent four days at the tournament – and a good luck wish before sitting down to marvel at the popular Irish man’s victory in the 148th British Open Championship.
O’Driscoll, speaking at the launch of Sports Extra on Sky, believes that Lowry’s success coupled with the exemplary manner in which the tournament was staged was a significant boost for Irish sport and tourism. The former Leinster, Ireland and Lions captain has no doubt that the Offaly man’s victory will inspire other sportspeople, not least the national rugby team ahead of the World Cup in Japan.
“It’s funny we really love supporting our own, wanting people to see the spectacle and put on the best show we truly can. They [Portrush] did a phenomenal job and to get an Irish winner and for Shane to be that winner was definitely the cherry on the cake.
“We completely bat above our average, to use cricketing parlance since we seem to be doing that at the moment. It’s a real lesson for everyone to hear someone like Shane say, ‘I can’t believe I’ve managed to do this’; he’s climbed his Everest so to speak and yet he wasn’t sure that he could.
“What message does that send to everyone that maybe doesn’t fully believe in themselves, what they can achieve or how far they can go? It’s a serious shot in the arm to everybody, every team irrespective of your sport.
“If someone like Shane Lowry, who wasn’t sure of himself, could achieve then surely we all can. I’m sure that the lads took great satisfaction from watching him, as the whole country has.
“He’s a very likeable guy, you don’t hear people say ‘Shane Lowry’s not really for me’, when there’s lots of other sportsmen and women that split opinion. I don’t know anyone who has a bad story about him.
“He’s a very popular winner and rightly so. I saw a tweet from [Phil] Mickelson’s caddie, referring to how they spent a couple of days playing with him and how they would definitely be rooting for him on the Sunday.”
O’Driscoll will be working for television at the Rugby World Cup, initially from the studios in Maidstone before flying out to Japan for the last 2½ weeks of the tournament, beginning with the quarter-finals.
Historically Ireland have never got past that stage in previous tournaments but he feels that Joe Schmidt’s squad won’t be content to just eclipse that landmark. “Genuinely I wasn’t lying when I said the team would not take a semi-final if you offered it to them. They just wouldn’t because they feel they are capable of winning it.
“If you offered them the possibility of losing in a quarter-final or winning it they’d take that [the gamble]. They wouldn’t hedge their bets. They want to win the World Cup and feel they are capable of winning it.”
Ireland play four warm-up matches in August and early September before departing for Japan but O’Driscoll maintained that Schmidt already largely knows the composition of his squad. “I think you will only really see guys, that there might be a question mark over, in the Italian game.
“I think Joe pretty much knows his squad at this stage. Maybe there are one or two positions that he is not sure of, particularly with the back five. The likes of Will Addison, is it him or [Andrew] Conway? There are probably still one or two uncertainties around that.”
In terms of the warm-up matches there can be no compromise in attitude or intensity. O’Driscoll said: “They won’t be minding themselves going into those games. They will be playing to get themselves on the plane. Even players that feel they are on it [the plane] if you show that you are minding yourself a small bit, protecting yourself a small bit, you will be excluded.
“There is enough strength in depth in most positions for someone to come in and do a really good job. That’s what Joe has worked on since the disappointment of that last World Cup.
“That is potentially a legacy that he will leave behind that there is not such an onus on key individuals, albeit that there are still a few key players you want to make sure that you have for the first match and throughout the tournament.”