Brian O’Driscoll may no longer have the youthful je ne sais quoi with which he burst into the mainstream sporting consciousness on the back of that Paris hat-trick nine years ago, but his gutsy leadership against a bloody-minded, Martin Johnson-moulded England on Saturday was a career-defining display. As Keith Wood observed, he’s put in better performances for his country, but never a superior shift as Irish captain.
As well as his critical try and drop-goal, O’Driscoll put his body on the line and also had the head on his shoulders to remove the match-winning responsibility from the out-of-sorts Ronan O’Gara, whose miskicking performance accentuated Ireland’s desperate shortage of an alternative outhalf. That said, O’Gara is entitled to the odd off-day in front of the posts. Even All Blacks scoring machine Dan Carter breaks down on occasion.
‘Bod’ hasn’t always enjoyed the best of press; routinely portrayed as the archetypal Dublin 4 posh public school boy with the ‘gorge’ girlfriend. However, he’s always given a hundred percent in the green jersey. You’d rather him with you in the trenches than plenty of ‘working class’ supposed sporting heroes I could name. Stephen Ireland for starters.
And so much for the perception once upon a time that he and Declan Kidney were on different wavelengths. They seem to be getting on like a house on fire, though the former Munster coach has a humble way about him that’s hard not to warm too.
Whereas Eddie O’Sullivan suffered from the sort of PR/personality deficit that three triple crowns couldn’t overcome (favouring anally-retentive coach-speak), Kidney has a common touch; coming across like the most bashful interviewee while ticking all the right boxes.
His comments about a second Croke Park victory over ‘the auld enemy’ being a fitting repayment to the GAA for accommodating rugby’s needs would have gone down well in even the most staunchly anti-IRFU/FAI quarters.
Hopefully the GAA will be equally generous in thanking its tenants when the time comes.