Rugby | 8 months ago
Lovely story that shows what Paul O'Connell was really like when he played for Ireland
What an absolute gent

"Did you scare anyone? Did you f***ing put the fear of God into anyone?"

He tries to shake it off now but that manic aggression speech was one of the defining moments of Paul O'Connell's career.

The former Ireland captain lived, breathed, seared and bled for his country but there was another side to him. A lighter side. A side that his family, friends and teammates often got to see but many of us may have missed amid all the hoarse shouting.

On the latest episode of The Hard Yards, former Ireland international Kevin McLaughlin recalled a lovely story about O'Connell that will make a good few of you out there see him in a different light. As McLaughlin explains [from 10:00], O'Connell was an absolute gent whenever he first came into the squad.

He was also a prime mischief maker.

Asked what lads that were good for the wind-up, McLaughlin harked back to one of his first experiences within the senior Irish set-up. He said:

"Paul O'Connell, what a gent. He was one of the guys who would come up to me and spend time.

"He would make time for me on the plays. I built up a lot of trust for him over those first couple of weeks. 

"So we were having a meal at Fitzpatrick's Hotel and there was some sauce that nobody knew what it was. Paulie says to me, 'See what that sauce is there, Kev.'

"I pick up a huge, big spoon of it and he says, 'Give it a smell there.'

"I smell the spoon and he gave it a slap. The sauce covered my entire face. I looked at him and my heart broken. Like, I thought you were nice! And the entire room was laughing at me."

Welcoming and friendly, with a darkly comic streak.


Perhaps O'Connell was really helping McLaughlin settle in by embarrassing him, showing him the worst that could happen and letting him see it wasn't so bad after all.

Or perhaps he was just a sly fecker!

Episode 46 of The Hard Yards rugby podcast features an interview with former Ulster & All Blacks star John Afoa, while Wasps centre Brendan Macken joins Andy and Pat to talk Champions Cup and Ireland.

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Ireland, Sponsored, The Hard Yards, Paul O'Connell, thyrugby, Kevin McLaughlin