Thursday 18 January 2018

Paul O'Connell on retirement: 'Maybe one more year'

O'Connell: I've had no contact with Toulon

Paul O'Connell at the launch of the new adidas Climachill product range
Paul O'Connell at the launch of the new adidas Climachill product range
Paul O'Connell

Paul O'Connell will make a decision on the end-date for his career in June.

There is every chance he will choose to play on for one more season. In Ireland.

The Ireland captain rowed in behind the IRFU's Elite Performance Director David Nucifora in seeming to turn away from the gold coins on offer in France.

"I certainly haven't spoken to Toulon or been over there," he said.

"There are no options to do anything. I am on contract with Ireland until 2016."

It would seem O'Connell's main decision is over whether to end his career at the conclusion of Ireland's World Cup, to see out his contract to June 2016 or to extend it.

He may choose the same route as Brian O'Driscoll, playing for 'One More Year' just to be sure, to be sure.

"I envy the position Brian was in - he was 100 percent in no doubt it was the right thing to do," he said.

"I think he kind of kicked on and went for another year. I spoke to him recently and he doesn't regret that in the slightest.

"That's the advice he gave me, if you are in doubt, he had no regret about going another year.

Paul O'Connell

"Look, it's not a bad position to be in, to be playing well and for people to be eager for you to play on."

The fact O'Connell is feeling better physically and mentally now than he did when he signed his two-year contract extension at the turn of 2014 leaves him in a muddle over when to call it quits.

"I really thought two years ago that there was going to be no doubt in this," he stated.

"That I was going to be managing my body, I was going to have to be really dilligent to manage my body to get myself to the World Cup in good shape.

"I have looked after it, but I'm probably in a better place than I thought I'd be. So that probably muddies the water more than anything."

The problem with that is the internal battle between listening to what his body and his mind are telling him.

"I normally know exactly what I am going to do and when I am going to do it. I really wish I had a bit more clarity. I am about 85-90% of the way there.

"I just think once you announce a decision you are stuck with it. I don't want to put myself in that position."

O'Connell has taken counsel from everyone, from Munster old boy Ronan O'Gara to champion jockey Tony McCoy.

"I met AP McCoy a few weeks ago and it seems to be a huge wrench for him," he added.

"He said he was kind of punishing himself. He made a decision and he's making himself stay with it.

"I thought it was a strange thing to say and I don't want to do that to myself yet until I'm 100 per cent what I'm doing.

"I just think if I came out and said this is what I will do and I was retiring on such-and-such a date and had a change of heart, I'd look silly and I'd end up married to something I didn't want to be, so that is where I am at the moment."

The fear is that he would be held as a hostage to a decision he is not ready to make.

The World Cup still hangs there as the most glorious way to leave at the pinnacle of the game.

"It would be a natural exit point I suppose," he admitted.

"I have chatted to so many people and have been involved with so many people retiring and talked with them.

"And while I agree with them, it is very hard to walk away from something you really enjoy and have been a part of," he considered.

READ MORE: O'Connell: We only have a slim chance of winning the World Cup'

"I love training and I love being involved in the build-up to matches, with coaches and trying to figure things out.

"I really didn't think 18 months ago/two years ago that I'd be in such a good place and that's probably what's delaying me pulling the trigger on a decision. It's a hard one.

"The day you 100% say 'this is exactly what I'm going to do' you're kind of stuck with that.'"

"I'm really enjoying playing at the moment. It's going to be a really important decision.

"I really don't want to be, in five years, regretting the decision I make whether it is to retire or whether or play on for another year or so.

"I am working on trying to get that right."

Sure, won't he be a long time retired?

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