This Is What It Took For Paul O’Connell To Become One Of The World’s Very Best



A strong word that perfectly encapsulates, the man, the myth, the legend that is Paul O’Connell. The inspirational former Munster and Ireland captain will forever go down in history as one of Ireland’s greatest sporting heroes- but how did he get to become awe-inspiring legend he is today.

Anthony Foley and Paul O'Connell after the game 23/4/2006

Obsessiveness to be the best, according to Alan Quinlan. His former Munster and Ireland colleague wrote a fantastic article in the Independent today, detailing the efforts of the Young Munster man.

He wasn’t the most naturally skilful player and would beat himself up if he made a mistake. Yet even then, as he felt his way into the squad, he was thirsty for knowledge and in those early months of his professional career, when he nursed a bad back and wondered if he would ever get a chance to play again, he’d go out of his way to pick your brains.

That’s Paul. As a bloke, he’s mad for information and advice and he couldn’t absorb enough of it, about the way we prepared, the way we improved our mental strength, the way we dealt with setbacks. Constantly, he questioned himself and reviewed his own game.

Once, after a Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Toulouse, he really went hard on himself over the number of penalties he had conceded in that game.

Yet with Paul there was a difference between self-pity and self-assessment. He didn’t want others to feel sorry for him because he never felt sorry for himself. He wanted to be the best he could and so throughout his career, he worked on eliminating the errors from his game and learning from his mistakes.

Learning from others was what set him aside. If he felt his handling skills weren’t up to scratch, he’d head down to train with the best passers in the squad. If he felt he wasn’t fast enough, he’d surround himself with the speedsters. Then, when training ended, he’d seek out the nutritionist and interrogate him or her about diet. No one got away without being quizzed. The physios and sports scientists were battered with questions. On his downtime, he’d find any autobiography he could put his hands on and take inspiration by high achievers and hard work. The day Ireland won the Grand Slam? Paul read Richard Branson’s book that afternoon.

Read Alan Quinlan’s brilliant article on O’Connell in full here.

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