Paul Jeremiah O’Connell or to most of us just Paulie, our Paulie is caught up in some serious speculation surrounding his final playing years and I am strongly hoping that speculation is just what it is and what it remains because for Munster to lose, by far their greatest player would be a killer blow.
However, with Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams preparing to retire at the end of the season, Toulon have apparently lined up an intrepid bid to buy out the last year of the 35-year-old Irish captain’s IRFU contract and secure his heroic services for the next two seasons. It makes sense, of course, every team would be lying if they said they didn’t want him on their team.
In light of all this transfer talk I decided to dedicate this blog post to the greatness of the man himself. Really I just love any excuse to talk about our Paulie.
Recognised as one of the worlds best second rows, the Limerick lock, i.e. O’Connell has been by far one of the most consistent players in the Northern Hemisphere in the last decade. He is Ireland’s fourth most capped player (101), the current captain of the Irish national side and has captained Munster, most notably, to their second Heineken Cup win in the 2007 – 08 season and the 2008-09 Celtic League title. He was also named captain for the British and Irish Lions Tour to South Africa in 2009.
In his 14 years playing for Munster he has been capped 170 times and has scored 90 points but it’s his leadership that has stood the test of time. Paulie, with his towering 6ft 6in frame and easy going, relaxed tone to his voice are a dangerous blend that have served the born leader well. His work ethic is immense and when he’s on the field he is all over the pitch covering numerous positions in one game.
Apparently he likes to ‘put the fear of God’ into his opponents and while he appears to me off the pitch to be a friendly giant, his game face is certainly on when he steps out onto the pitch ready for war, so I’m not surprised he is feared by the opposition. It’s his superpower and it works a treat.
It’s a measure of his greatness that some of the worlds top players constantly sing his praises:
Victor Matfield (South Africa):
I think O’Connell is a fantastic player. He is probably the best player I’ve played against in my career.
Dan Carter (New Zealand):
The guy is world-class; such a competitor and an absolute beast.
Sergio Parisse (Italy):
Whenever Ireland have O’Connell in their pack, they have a chance. He is a true leader and drives them in so many ways.
His passion and love for what he does is as evident now as those first times he put on both the Munster and Ireland jerseys. Speaking of those first times, the fresh faced and not so bald 22 year old scored a try for Ireland on his international debut… and also knocked himself out as Ireland teammate Geordan Murphy later recalled:
Paul won his first cap that day too, knocking himself clean out scoring a try. Of course, Paulie wanted to play away without his marbles.
Paul loves playing rugby and doesn’t take it for granted,
I’m 35 now and I’m trying to be a better player now than I was at 25, and that’s not easy but that’s the motivation for me at the moment
While he knows all good things come to an end, he still has another year on his contract with Munster and I’m praying that he chooses to stick with the team he has had so many great memories with over the years.
It’s an amazing feeling, it’s a privilege and you just can’t ever forget that
The privilege of watching you play has been and continues to be all ours Paulie.
P.S. Just in case you didn’t get from my post that I think he is an Irish sporting and indeed all round legend, take a look at this article by Joe.ie detailing all the reasons why Paulie is the best Irish human alive.