By Catherine Shanahan
What’s the definition of serendipity? Being randomly selected as winner from thousands of entries to a draw for tickets to a crunch World Cup rugby match where your son, Paul O’Connell, is team captain.
Unsuspecting Irish Examiner marketing executive Catriona Buckley was momentarily floored by the answer she received after phoning the lucky winner of the newspaper competition yesterday and asking if she was free to travel.
“Yes. But is it OK if I am Paul O’Connell’s mother?” said the equally astounded Shelagh O’Connell.
Shelagh actually had the Irish Examiner in her hand and was looking at the hilarious front-page picture of Paul on a ride at Alton Towers amusement park with his teammates when she took the call.
“I buy the Examiner all of the time because I think the sports coverage is excellent,” Shelagh said. She had already scanned the newspaper for details of the competition winner.
“I didn’t see anything about it, so I assumed it was over and I hadn’t won. When I saw the Cork number flashing up on the phone, I thought it was a call from Cope where Michael’s [her husband] sister is based. I was quite surprised and shocked to hear I had won the competition.”
But had her famous son not already sorted tickets for his mum and dad for Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium where Ireland take on France in their final pivotal pool game on October 11?
“He doesn’t get tickets until the day of the game,” said Shelagh “But to be honest, match tickets are not the problem. It’s the flights and actually getting there. For the last game, when Ireland played Canada in Cardiff, we had to fly into London, followed by a four-hour drive to Cardiff. I wasn’t the best after sitting in the car for four hours.
“And I’m really looking forward to flying straight to Cardiff and having somewhere to stay, which in Cardiff is a huge problem.”
Problem solved then, thanks to her win, which guarantees her two nights in the 4-star Morgans Hotel in Swansea, just 65km from the stadium, with match transfers laid on. Her win also includes return flights from Dublin to Cardiff, airport transfers, the assistance of a Killester Travel Rep, a Rugby World Cup souvenir, and two match tickets.
So who’s the lucky travelling companion?
“I suppose I have to bring Michael, it would look kind of bad otherwise,” Shelagh laughed, adding that Paul’s brothers, Justin and Marcus, “will go mad when they hear”.
To win, Sheila had to answer eight World Cup rugby-related questions.
And while her son Paul is used to victory, is this her first big win?
“I’ve never won anything of significance before so this is a great surprise. But hopefully we’ll have a few good wins in the World Cup too and we’ll have the [Webb Ellis] Cup at the end of October.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.