At one point yesterday, it was probably harder to find messages on social media platforms that were not about Paul O’Connell, as tributes flooded in for the Ireland rugby captain who has now played his last game for his country.
He bows out in cruel circumstances, sustaining a serious injury in Sunday’s pool game with France, which now rules him out of the rest of the tournament.
It was another former Munster man, Irish Examiner columnist Ronan O’Gara, who led the way with a tweet which set the tone.
“My sadness is tinged with absolute pride having spent 16 years with one of rugby’s greatest competitors,” O’Gara wrote, adding the hashtags #gentleman #Leader and #1ofakind.
As Irish rugby lost its captain in the throes of a burgeoning World Cup campaign, former captain Brian O’Driscoll added his voice to the throng. “This is so wrong on many levels,” he tweeted. “One of the greatest leaders & players of them all. Inspirational.”
This is so wrong on many levels. One of the greatest leaders & players of them all. Inspirational. https://t.co/8blR5e2tJp— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) October 13, 2015
As the #thanksPaulie hashtag began trending in Ireland and in Britain, fans from near and far paid their own tributes.
Munster Rugby said the towering forward had been “A trailblazer for @IrishRugby”, adding: “He gave everything for green.”
Connacht Rugby also tweeted its thanks, as did the official Irish Rugby account, tweeting that O’Connell was “a leader, a warrior, a gentleman”. Ulster Rugby said O’Connell would go down as one of Irish rugby’s “all time greats”.
One of the official GAA Twitter accounts posted a photograph of O’Connell climbing for a ball thrown into the line-out in the epic 2007 victory over England at Croke Park.
The official Rugby World Cup account wrote that a “legend leaves the stage” . RTÉ head of sport and rugby commentator Ryle Nugent tweeted: “Sport for all its glorious wonder is a bastard sometimes. Sick that one of our greatest ever @Paul_OConnell departs the stage in this way.”
Minister for Sport Michael Ring described O’Connell as one of the country’s greatest ever players and said: “‘Paul has been a marvellous leader for the Irish rugby team and his contribution to Irish rugby has been immense.”
Even Dustin the Turkey tweeted: “Paul O’Connell the hero they named a street in Dublin AND Limerick after.”
Maybe it was his leaving of the field that summed up his will to win on it. Kevin Ivers tweeted: “As Paul O’Connell left the field on the stretcher he raised his fist in the air, that’s when I knew we’d win #RWC #Legend #ThanksPaulie”.
As Paul O'Connell left the field on the stretcher he raised his fist in the air, that's when I knew we'd win #RWC#Legend #ThanksPaulie— Kevin Ivers (@K_Ivers) October 13, 2015
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