Paul O'Connell: This is it for me so I want to make it count
Paul O’Connell is playing his cards in the last chance saloon.
And he knows it only too well.
He was just a ginger-haired boy-man when he went to his first World Cup in 2003.
Ireland’s captain didn’t have anything more pressing than playing to keep him awake at night.
Oh, the naivety of youth. That must seem like a long time ago this week.
“It is probably very different,” said the 35 year-old.
“When I went in ’03, I was a young guy. I didn’t have any of the pressures some of the senior players had in that tournament, certainly around the Argentina game and what qualification meant financially to the Union.
“I went there having had a good summer tour in Samoa and Tonga. I was delighted to get picked and just really enjoyed the tournament.
“It was a very different experience to what it is now,” he said.
The move from young and gifted to older and greater has made his fourth World Cup a more cherish-able event.
O’Connell has been to hell and back from 2003 through to the debacle in 2007 and the ‘almost’ experience of 2011.
The World Cup has never been a happy hunting ground for Ireland.
No matter the form, the build-up, the expectation or the talent, Ireland have always delivered disappointment.
“Coming over, we were like a bunch of guys going on a school tour. It was a very giddy flight and bus trip to the hotel here.
“Preparation has gone really well for the team and for myself. I haven’t missed many training sessions which is great.
“It is nice to get here. But it is nice to get here in good shape as well having played a good few games and trained for 10-11 weeks.
“The excitement is massive, probably more than the first one because I know there’s no more to come.”