He was a "tall skinny young fella" who couldn’t work the deli counter in his local shop because his hands were too big. Now we know him as the legend: Paul O’Connell.
The mighty Munster man will cement an already iconic career by becoming the fourth man, after Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and John Hayes, to reach 100 caps in an Irish rugby jersey this weekend in the Six Nations clash against Wales.
To mark the occasion, Irish rugby sponsors Three have released #AllitTakes — Paul O’Connell — a short documentary giving some unique insights about the man himself.
With contributions from the people closest to him — including Paul’s father Michael, Ronan O’Gara and Johnny Sexton — the short film documents O’Connell’s journey from the local parks of Limerick to today.
Father Michael still gets emotional seeing his son lead out Ireland and said Paul was “unbelievably competitive” from a young age.
“It’s fairly emotional. I must say I think it’s fairly emotional every time to be quite honest because it was a great honour really for the family,” he said.
We even get an insight from O’Connell’s one-time employer John Gleeson, of Gleeson’s shop in Limerick. It turns out the Ireland legend didn’t have what it takes to work in the deli counter.
“He started stacking shelves but he graduated very quickly from that. Any sporting person that came into the shop I used to say: ‘Do you see the big red-haired young fella down there, he’ll play for Ireland’. He didn’t like the deli and the hands were so big that trying to get him around sandwiches and things like that would have been too difficult. He took one look at it and said: ‘No John, I don’t think that’s for me’.”
A bit closer to his line of work, former teammate Ronan O’Gara had only good things to say about O’Connell, even if you see “steam coming out of his big red head” from time to time.
“The big thing for Paul is standards and the Monday is as important as the Saturday. He is very, very special in terms of the ability to deliver the right message at the right time,” he said.
The man currently in the 10 jersey formerly occupied by O’Gara has similar sentiments pointing to O’Connell’s ability to motivate his teammates.
“He’s our captain. He’s an outstanding leader. When he speaks to the squad during the week, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up,” said Johnny Sexton.
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