Not only have the performances of Keith Earls on the pitch aged like fine wine, but his interviews and public presence as an advocate for positive mental health have been inspirational.
His book 'Fight or Flight: My Life My Choice' was released last year to rave reviews, and won best sports book at the An Post Book Awards.
He followed this up with an emotional appearance on the Late Late Show, where he spoke candidly about his experiences battling bipolar disorder and overcoming self-doubt.
In a further eye-opening insight into his life, he sat down with the Guardian’s Donald McRae for an interview that was released this morning.
Keith Earls delves deeper into his bipolar disorder, and discusses his ‘alter ego’ which he refers to as ‘Hank’.
“A couple of years ago I probably had one good day a month. Bipolar could affect me for weeks but now it’s one or two bad days every few months. But sometimes I get confident and say: ‘Look, I’m better. It’s all OK now.’ I fall into bad habits and all of a sudden your man Hank is back again."
Another stand out part of the interview were his words on Ireland head coach Andy Farrell. It paints Farrell in a very kind light, and highlights his qualities as a brilliant man manager and a generous person.
“We were on a camp in Portugal and Andy had one-on-ones with all of us. He asked what I was going to do after rugby. I said: ‘I don’t know. I obviously like the coffee business but I’m embarrassed. I can’t read that well, I can’t spell, I can’t write well.’ He was brilliant. He knows a lot of people, even himself, who aren’t good spellers. He said learn from predictive text and get into good habits."
Earls also bravely spoke about his experiences on the 2009 Lions Tour and the lasting effect it had on his self-esteem.
“Hank was always there but he really came out after that tour. Rugby was my thing to get away from life. But after the Lions, particularly that first game [where he was traumatised by self-doubt], Hank started to take over. I got to a stage where I hated rugby. The one thing I enjoyed now made me feel like shit. That Lions tour is the best and worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Keith Earls is now 34 years old, and currently sits at 96 caps for his country. His best rugby of his career has come in the last four years. There is no man in Ireland more deserving of their century of international appearances.