It has been a positive few months for Ireland captain Paul O’Connell. The Lock has been aging like fine wine and it was confirmed by the IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year Award for the 2014/15 season. The playing career of O’Connell appeared to be finished a few years ago. Proper management has not only helped him extend his playing days, but it has also led him to this accolade. Yet, it is not surprising to know that O’Connell is close to ending his playing days irrespective of the success with club or national team in the next few weeks. O’Connell’s Munster are placed at EVENS in the Pro12 Grand Final odds by Betfair.
The influence of O’Connell upon Munster has only grown in the last decade. After having made his debut for the club in 2001, it did not take long for O’Connell to be amongst trophies. The league and the Celtic Cup were amongst the early titles that he received. Since then, however, several more have joined to the collection. He has been a dominant force in the Ireland national team by winning three Six Nations Championships and one Grand Slam. There has also been a European title along the way with Munster.
After having enjoyed a relatively injury free career until 2010, the 35-year-old has been ravaged by injuries in the last five years. In his own admission, he says that he never expected to carry on playing after 31 or 32. Yet, he is an example of proper management helping a player extend his career. O’Connell also believes that changing his attitude during and after the game has also helped him carry on playing. Compared with his early days, O’Connell says that he is now playing the game with much less pressure on his shoulders.
The calm and collected approach has been a key factor in Ireland getting back-to-back success in the Six Nations tournament. It could also be a defining factor in the upcoming World Cup 2015. Ireland will be aware that New Zealand are seen as the clear favourites to win the title by Betfair, who offer odds of 6/4 for the same. England come second at odds of 9/2, while South Africa and Ireland are not too far behind. Ireland are ranked just behind South Africa at odds of 7/1.
O’Connell has been able to take much of the pressure away from his game by focusing on each game as it comes. The Lock reveals that Ireland will be following a similar approach at the World Cup. Ireland are in the pool containing France, Canada, Italy, and Romania. They kick-off the tournament with a match against Canada at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The World Cup 2015 might be the last stage to witness O’Connell as a player. He has been heavily hinting in recent weeks that he may be hanging up his boots irrespective of the result at the World Cup. Aside from being in contention for the World Cup title, O’Connell will also be looking to win the Pro12 Grand Final.
Despite his age, Toulon are reportedly interested in signing him. Even though O’Connell still has a contract until 2016, it is largely thought that he will retire after the World Cup concludes. O’Connell says that the result of the World Cup or the Grand Final will not determine his retirement date. Instead, he will choose to hang up his boots whenever his body tells him to do. After having won numerous accolades as a player, O’Connell will be looking forward to a different career.
He will bow out at a time when Irish rugby has been going through a positive period. Aside from Leinster having reached the European semi-final this season, Irish rugby fans can also look forward to seeing the country host the upcoming 2017 women’s World Cup. Even though the Rugby Association will have to shell out a lot of money – around €2.5 million in order to make this a reality, O’Connell says that it will be immensely beneficial. Apart from winning the player’s Player of the Year title, the 35-year-old has also been named as the Supporters’ Player of the Year 2015.
The current positive trend may also help the country be successful in their bid to host the 2023 World Cup. Brian O’Driscoll has been named as the brand ambassador of the team that will be responsible for bringing the World Cup to Irish shores. O’Driscoll never won the World Cup as a player, but this represents a great opportunity for him to make an impact off the field. South Africa are seen as the biggest opposition for Ireland. O’Connell says that a successful women’s World Cup will lay a strong foundation for the men’s edition.