As crazy days in sport go, Saturday was top of Paul O’Connell’s looney chart.
Amid the frenzied cele-bration, nerve-shattering madness, and record results, there’s one memory that Captain Colossus will treasure more than most — walking off Murrayfield’s hallow turf with his son Paddy.
Paddy has been a permanent fixture at all off the big games recently — and he took centre stage again on Saturday after a mesmerising day saw Ireland crowned Six Nations champions.
“Paddy has been with me in the changing rooms after the last few games and when I look back, they’ll probably be the best memories I’ll have,” said O’Connell. “He’s been in the changing rooms for Joe Schmidt’s summing-up meetings, he went around all the players and got his jersey signed with Ben Best beside him — Rory Best’s son, who he’s best friends with.
“He sat with Ben Best during the match yesterday and he’s having a great time and I must say I really enjoy having him there.”
O’Connell admitted his heart was in his mouth watching the England game, after Ireland had hammered Scotland 40-10 earlier.
Paul O'Connell's try against Scotland
“Saturday was just a crazy day really,” he said. “We played our game, we won 40-10, no one celebrated at the end of the game. We all walked off the pitch and wondered to ourselves would it be enough.
“In the back of our minds we were confident it would be enough because you could have never foreseen what was going to happen in the England-France game.
“We went in, did our media, showered and changed, and went upstairs and we watched the game in a function room with all the Scottish team around us, with all the dignitaries and all that.
“It was a nerve-wracking period, I’ve never experienced anything like that before. There were great celebrations then when France finally kicked the ball out. It was wonderful.”
That sense of occasion was made all the more special by the Irish fans, who O’Connell acknowledged as among the best in the world.
Jamie Heaslip and Cian Healy take a picture with a fan at Dublin Airport after the Six Nations champions returned from Scotland with the trophy.
“I knew there was a bit of a crowd pitchside so then we had to go back down to receive the trophy, but we never imagined that one half of the lower stand was absolutely rammed packed with Irish people,” he said.
Simon Zebo joined in the selfie fun at Dublin Airport despite being dropped for the title decider.
“I don’t think [the organisers] knew it was going to turn out the way it did — that’s the Irish for you. We noticed it on Friday when we went for our captain’s run, there was a massive crowd outside the team hotel cheering us on to the bus.
“Then when we arrived into the ground there were Irish people all over... there was a massive amount of Irish people there. I don’t know what the number was, it might have been 10,000 that stayed on for the trophy presentation. There was music blaring, it was almost like a disco. It was great fun, the guys really enjoyed it.”
With back-to-back titles in the bag, comparisons were inevitable. While it’s impossible to choose between the two on the pitch, off it, there is only one winner. “We were asked if it was better than last year — it probably was better craic than last year. It was incredible and it was added to cause we thought we had it lost the way England were playing.”
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