paulie ends in typical style
O'Connell avoids fanfare as Munster earn final spot
I have this friend - The Caddyman.
He is English, from Kent. He knows everything about golf; nothing about rugby. I mean nothing. He thinks Mike Tindall is a low budget Christmas gift.
Anyway, we had a habit of meeting up in the mid-afternoon, every now and again, for two or three drinks.
Two years ago, he arrived back in Dublin after a weekend in Limerick.
The conversation went something like this:
"I was out drinking with an Irish rugby player on Saturday."
"It was weird."
"I was with him for the whole night. He asked me about golf, the European tour, the lifestyle. He never mentioned rugby."
"What about it?"
"He must have had in or around 100 people come up to him for a chat, an autograph or whatever. It was really annoying after the fifth person had been and gone."
"Sounds like a pain."
"I couldn't believe how he treated all of them, every single one like they were the first to speak to him."
Paul O'Connell doesn't do fuss and fanfare. Never has.
That is why he refused to kneel to the media requests for his Munster end date.
He just didn't want the adulation all the way to his last everything, like his last time at Thomond Park on Saturday.
The outward image of an intense, obsessive rugby warrior is complimented by what The Caddyman called "the patience of a true gent."
Munster will do everything humanly possible to send him away the winner he has always been in the PRO12 League final next Saturday.
There have been thousands of photos taken of O'Connell, those with the Heineken Cup, the Grand Slam wreath and the last two Six Nations trophies.
It is a photo of compassion and protection that tells you all you want to know about our greatest leader.
It was taken at the end of The British & Irish Lions' loss to South Africa in the decisive third test in 1999.
The captain was leaving the pitch in Pretoria with his arm around Ronan O'Gara.
"He had the opportunity for immortality as captain of the Lions," said the out-half.
"But, in that second test, I destroyed that dream for him, giving away the winning Boks penalty which Morne Steyn kicked from 53 metres.
"Coming off the field, he had the respect and decency, the greatness, to put his arm around someone who just wanted his world to end right there.
"He was thinking of me when anyone else could have said 'what were you doing there?'"