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"We All Want Ireland To Win, But I’d Wager We Want BOD To Win Much, Much More"

"We All Want Ireland To Win, But I’d Wager We Want BOD To Win Much, Much More"
By Rugby Nerds
Ahead of Brian O'Driscoll's final game for Ireland, Balls Rugby Nerd Paddy Logan has penned a tribute to one of our greatest ever sportspersons.

As Brian O’Driscoll choked back the emotion during his post-match MOTM interview, the crowd, who to a man, woman and child had delayed their charge for the hostelries of Ballsbridge to pay homage to the great man, started to chant ‘one more year’. It’s an understandable sentiment, given the level of his play in this year’s Six Nations, but we only see his weekly brilliance, not the days of punishing training, his struggling to get out of bed in the morning or months of painful and boring rehab. He is the one who has to endure that and he has no intention of putting himself through another pre-season. We will not see him in green at Lansdowne Road again, and we are all the worse off for that.

Some have claimed that on any other day, Jonny Sexton, who was in scintillating form, would have got the MOTM gong but I do not share that opinion at all. If I were the adjudicator, I would have been looking for excuses not to give it to BOD for fear of being labelled overly sentimental. As it transpired, he stood head and shoulders above the mortals with whom he shared the pitch on Saturday. It was like a highlights reel crammed into 60 minutes. The perfectly weighted no look pass to Sexton on the Randwick loop for the Racing star’s first try; the fabulous inside show and basketball pass to Trimble for our second; and the frankly outrageous ‘Gidley flick’ to Rob Kearney that put Sexton in for his second were the most spectacular moments but overall it was another masterclass in modern centre three-quarter play.

As ever, his defence was magnificent. Nobody reads the outside-centre channel better than him and his ability to get up and over the ball is peerless (and far too quick for Chris Pollock). His detractors may point to his losing a yard of pace, but I’m not sure that Luther Burrell or Campagnaro would share that view.

There is no doubt in my mind that Drico is Ireland’s greatest ever sportsman and a true legend of world rugby. The stats are extraordinary. He will play is 141st and last test match in Paris on Saturday, thereby surpassing the previous record by two. That was held by George Gregan, a prodigious half-back with an impressive engine but for whom contact would be the exception rather than the rule. BOD has spent his 140 tests in the most challenging defensive position on the park, making bone shuddering tackles and taking plenty himself. He is beyond teak tough, just ask Scott Williams! In his 15-year international career he has started all but one of his matches – I don’t know how many minutes he’s been on the park but I’d wager that it is way more than the next highest – he has certainly gone the full 80 more often than not. His durability is Thorne-esque.

But for all his magnificence in defence and at the ruck, it will be his attacking brilliance that will linger longest in the mind. Scooping up a spilled ball without breaking stride to streak in at Twickenham and Stade de France; passing to himself behind his centre partner to set up an outside break for Leinster; burrowing over from inches in the most vital of games; searing bursts, super accurate passes and the softest of hands. There is no doubt that he is the most complete footballer of all.

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Of course he has been blessed with a sublime talent but the truth is that it is not this that marks him out. We all know of players that excelled at school and the truth is that many have had more stellar under-age careers. The rarest gift is the ability and the discipline to squeeze out every last ounce of talent. This is where BOD is truly great. Be clear, I am not suggesting he is an earnest plodder, far from it. Nothing is more frustrating than a sportsperson who doesn’t nurture their talent: think Gavin Henson, Danny Cipriani and, to a lesser extent, our own George Best. O’Driscoll has exploited his talent better than most ever have putting him amongst a very select band of all-time greats: Gibson, Edwards, Eales, McCaw and Carter spring to mind.

O’Driscoll may not be solely responsible for the rise of provincial rugby but it can be no coincidence that during his career Leinster have gone from playing in front of sparse crowds at Donnybrook to filling the Aviva for Munster derbies in the Pro 12. He has won Triple Crowns, a Grand Slam, three Heineken Cups and an Amlin Challenge Cup. He’s even won a Lions series, even if the moment was spoiled by Gatland’s crass selection. He has been and remains the most professional of rugby players. It was hard not to believe him when in an interview for RTE ahead of the Italy game, he told Shaggy that he had not let his mind wonder to the French game - a suggestion that his former team-mate struggled to reconcile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocRjpL9GUYU

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Last Saturday, as the crowd stood as one to welcome McFadden onto the pitch, so began almost an hour of near hysterical hero worship that would have made Caesar blush and Kim Jong Il wonder if he might have overdone it a bit. That said, whilst O2’s 30 foot-high floating banner may have been a little OTT, the rest was fully justified. He has been the stand out player of Ireland’s golden generation and watching him perform has been an absolute joy. The Irish rugby faithful were determined to show their appreciation and the great man reciprocated with a virtuoso performance.

The start of his international career was extraordinary, leading Ireland to their first victory in France in donkeys’ ages with that hat-trick. In danger of going out with a whimper in last year’s Roman horror show, he was persuaded to extend by a year when Joe Schmidt was named as Kidney’s replacement. BOD is on record as saying that Schmidt is the best coach that he has ever worked with and really is a pity that they only got together on the International stage in his last year. Thankfully, since the damp squib of a performance against the Australians, Ireland and Drico have been magnificent, setting the stage for an enthralling finale in St Denis on Saturday evening.

The chance to depart the stage on a high is an opportunity that is afforded to very few sportsmen and even fewer rugby players whose careers are so often cruelly cut short by injury: just think of Jerry Flannery, David Wallace, the aforementioned Shane Horgan, who all had to call it a day after failing to recover from nagging injuries. Or O’Gara, Stringer or Hayes who all fell out of favour before they called it a day.

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For Irish fans, this coming Saturday will be hugely emotional and, regardless of the result, we will talk about it for the rest of our lives. We all want Ireland to win, but I’d wager we want BOD to win much, much more.

Follow Paddy Logan on Twitter.

Picture credit: Sportsfile

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