herald

Friday 20 October 2017

I think he'll go after World Cup, says captain O'Connell's proud dad

The proud father of Paul O'Connell believes his son will retire from top-flight rugby after the World Cup later this year.

Michael O'Connell said all the family will be in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff to share in the Ireland rugby captain's historic milestone today when he receives his 100th international cap.

"I think he'll finish at the end of the year after the World Cup," said Mr O'Connell.

"He hasn't said anything to me, but I'd be very hopeful they'll do well in the World Cup and they'd be happy with that," he said.

Attrition

"Any parent whose son is playing, as he gets older, especially with rugby's attrition rates, you'd be concerned after every match.

"But, thank God, he's had a good run of it now and, hopefully, he'll be able to get to the end of the line without any other injuries," he said.

"I often say to him there is life outside rugby as well.

"He loves playing and he loves training and he got a bit of help in keeping in the best condition which I think is the secret to it," he said.

As the rugby world prepares to pay tribute to Ireland's warrior leader today, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also had a message for Big Paul.

"I congratulate him on his 100th cap and my words to the Irish rugby team is 'go get 'em'," Mr Kenny said.

The Taoiseach recalled meeting Paul in Limerick recently, stating O'Connell was "a striking figure" in a suit, but he is "a fearsome sight on the rugby pitch."

Meanwhile, Michael O'Connell told the Herald his son's achievement in getting his 100th cap was "fantastic" and made the whole family proud. Other great memories included Paul captaining The Lions in South Africa.

"We've had many great days but probably not a lot left," said Mr O'Connell.

"We never looked ahead to him getting his 100th cap. Everything depends on injuries, but he's been pretty lucky.

"It's a great milestone to reach," he said. "Getting the 100th cap in the Millenium Stadium, an unbelievable theatre for sport, will be a fantastic buzz.

"It'll be a great day," said the beaming dad.

Sharing the moment today in the stadium with Michael and his wife Shelagh will be their other two sons Marcus and Justin, and, of course, Paul's wife Emily and children Paddy and Lola.

Michael O'Connell played rugby himself as a young man in Cork with Sunday's Well and Young Munster, mainly at junior level.

He never pushed Paul to play.

"Paul was always self-motivating. I think Paul got his great work ethic from his swimming days because there's no place to hide in swimming … and I think that benefited him.

"In fairness now, I never pushed my kids. I encouraged them and I think that's the best way to go with youngsters rather than pushing them to places they mightn't want to go," he said.

Genes

Paul's magnificent physique is partly down to his genes, said his dad. Michael himself is 6'3" and Paul's brothers are 6'3'' and 6'4'', while Paul is 6'6.'' Other males in the family tree are also big guys.

So roll on this afternoon and the clash with Wales.

The proud dad declared: "It's a great occasion. We're looking forward to it. And if we get the win it will make it such a special day overall."

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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