James Downey on training methods embraced by Donncha O'Callaghan way before others caught on
John Muldoon and Donncha O'Callaghan both got the fairytale finishes to their careers than so few professional rugby players are lucky to get.
For every player like Muldoon and O'Callaghan that gets to run out on the pitch knowing this will indeed be their final game, another slew face retirement in treatment rooms, training fields, the coach's office or with a letter through the door. The fact that both Irish rugby legends had winning send offs, for Connacht and Worcester, makes it all the sweeter.
While Muldoon was leading - and kicking conversions - Connacht to a 47-10 win over Leinster, O'Callaghan helped Worcester to an emphatic victory over Harlequins at Sixways Stadium. To add to the occasion, the lock's children accompanied him onto the pitch wearing jerseys of the clubs he had played for in a 20+ year rugby career - Cork Con, Munster, Ireland and the Lions.
I will never forget Saturday🙏 🏉 ❤️ pic.twitter.com/jqN3jjt18y
— Donncha O'Callaghan (@docallaghan4) April 30, 2018
James Downey and Stephen Ferris joined The Hard Yards and [from 1:00 below] paid tribute to the retiring Muldoon and Ferris.
Downey spoke of how unfortunate it was O'Callaghan was not able to end his career at Munster but marvelled at how he, like Peter Stringer, found a new lease of life in the Aviva Premiership. Downey also exposed a long-held myth about 'Donners'.
Downey, who played two seasons at Munster with O'Callaghan, said:
"What a man to have in the dressing room, but what a professional. I know people talking about guys that were pros and that led from the front but Donncha was this ultra professional and that is what got him so far.
"You look at how much dedication he put into it. Like, he was doing yoga and Pilates way before it was fashionable and it worked. Just look how much it extended his career and he was so good. But every day he was in. If we had a day off, he'd be in and he'd be always pushing standards. Driving standards; pushing standards on."
What many people recall, when asked about O'Callaghan, are his lighter moments - Letting ducks into a meeting of the Munster team management, his fake tan jokes on The Late Late Show or going up for a lineout with just a pair of red underpants on...
Looking at O'Callaghan's career as a series of light-hearted moments is selling him sort, according to Downey.
"Once he was across that white line for training, he was totally focused and completely serious.
"Obviously, everyone sees he has this jokey personality and when you see him, he's hilarious. But behind that he is so driven and his standards are so high - in training and for himself. In training, he was so, so dedicated to everything that he did."
Ferris added to Downey's comments by calling the former Munster, Ireland Lions second row a fantastic rugby player and a tremendous servant to Munster and Ireland.
"I thought he was going to be the first rugby player to keep going until he was 50 years of age!" he joked. "He just keeps trucking."